Are there bottles that have inspired you?

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Cynewulf

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Forgive me if this has been done before already, but I thought it would be interesting for folks to share particular bottles of wine that either inspired them to begin winemaking or to improve their craft and take it in new directions.

For me, it was a bottle of 1999 Les Vins de Vienne Vacqueyras that I got to taste during the wine training at my first restaurant gig back in 2003 (not my photo).
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We tasted plenty of wines and learned how to talk about them, but this one had something about it that I’d never smelled or tasted before in a wine. Breathing it in was like stepping into a walk-in humidor with beautiful aging cigars. That was when I fell in love with French wine and set off for France as a student hoping to learn more about winemaking.

It didn’t happen on that first tour and I ended up drinking a lot of average wine that didn’t recapture the initial magic. However, I read through Kermit Lynch’s Adventures on the Wine Route and began learning more about the specific French regions and the transition in the 70’s and 80’s in France from traditional to more modern industrial techniques, which he lamented.
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When I went back to France for work several years later, I happened across this bottle of Clos Fantine Faugères on a trip down to Provence.
3E10E933-2C1E-49E8-B608-5654CA0069A0.jpeg
What caught my eye in the shop were the words ‘sans sulfite ajouté’ written on the side of the label. In his book, Kermit Lynch commented a lot on his belief that wines in France were being over sulfited and over filtered so I was intrigued to try something that had not had any sulfites added during the winemaking process. When I opened it up, I felt I had at last found the wine that had brought me to France in the first place: alive with with an energy that I hadn’t been able to find elsewhere. Now that I get to grow and make my own wine, these are some of the main ones that have inspired me. I don’t know if I’ll ever attain their success but am having fun trying! Are there bottles that have inspired you?
 
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My introduction into winemaking was lower key. My elder brother made dandelion wine, and shortly thereafter I saw a recipe for rhubarb wine in a local newspaper, and that got me started.

Two of the guys I knew during my first decade of winemaking spurred me on in different ways.

One had been taught by his grandfather and made a Zinfandel that he intended to last 25 years. He did a lot of research and produced the most tannic wine I've ever tasted. At the 7 year mark the tannins were just thinking about softening.

The other was the best amateur winemaker I've known. He also researched heavily, and his Finger Lakes Cabernet Sauvignon was the best I'd had to that point, and for many years after.

Both taught me about quality and continued learning, which influences me today.
 
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As with Bryan my journey is also lower key and in a way different. In 2013 my company was awarded a contract to build a 14,000 sf tasting building which included a commercial kitchen and creamery. Prior to that I didn't have much of an interest in wine. But the process intrigued me and in the following years I had the opportunity to get to know a few commercial winemakers and learned to appreciate wines. I made my first wine in 2017 as well as taking a crash 6 week vintner's course a local winery was offering. As far as a wine that influenced me I have to admit I have a cellar palate for Virginia wines and know I have to expand my taste toward to other regions.
 
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skyfire322

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My intro to winemaking was when I was a cellar assistant at the vineyard I worked at in Northern VA. I started in the tasting room, but one day the winemaker needed an extra set of hands during the crush. We started talking, hit it off, and I then split my time between the tasting room and cellar.

Two months later, I was a full time cellar assistant. Of course I just did all of the odd jobs so I was never completely 'hands on', but he showed me different things throughout the whole process. The thing that interested me the most was the actual chemistry of it (I'm a science geek.) When I started my first wine, I was a deer in headlights because I forgot pretty much everything so I freaked out. I still do from time to time since I tend to experiment (a little too much at times) BUT that's what I love about it. You learn something new almost every batch. If you mess up? Just give it to your enemies as a gift. If you don't, keep it for yourself!
 
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@Cynewulf, I derailed your original intent, although this discussion is proving to be interesting, a broader topic that you envisioned.

Getting back to the original topic -- I can't think of any bottle of wine that directly pushed me in any direction. In my early years, I made wine from whatever fruit I had access to. Later I tried French-American hybrid wines, and chose to make wine from those grapes.

Later? It was categories. I discovered I like Rhone wines so I tried kits that emulated that (some more successfully than others). At this point I look at the grapes I have available and plan from there.

It's cool that you can point to individual bottles and say, "that inspired me!"
 

balatonwine

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It's cool that you can point to individual bottles and say, "that inspired me!"

I agree.

However, the bottles that "inspired me" were because they were popular wines, that I found awful.

The inspiration was "Hm.... I can probably do better than that." 🤔

Bottles withheld to protect the guilty....
 

Chuck E

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Mrs E. and I toured Tuscany in the fall of 2018. We rented a Fiat and drove all over the country. On the top of a mountain we visited the winery Montechiary owned by Moreno Panattoni and his wife Catharina. We had not made an appointment, but they graciously gave a tour of the grounds and the winery. We ended up spending several hours there. He went into great detail on his methods of making wine. I was fascinated!

His wine was very good.

When we returned home, I began my wine making journey. First with concentrates & kits, and then to juice bucket & grapes.
What a ride!

Like @NorCal , I am trying to make the best wines that I can make.
 

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Cynewulf

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@Cynewulf, I derailed your original intent, although this discussion is proving to be interesting, a broader topic that you envisioned.

Getting back to the original topic -- I can't think of any bottle of wine that directly pushed me in any direction. In my early years, I made wine from whatever fruit I had access to. Later I tried French-American hybrid wines, and chose to make wine from those grapes.

Later? It was categories. I discovered I like Rhone wines so I tried kits that emulated that (some more successfully than others). At this point I look at the grapes I have available and plan from there.

It's cool that you can point to individual bottles and say, "that inspired me!"
No worries - it’s great hearing about the people and experiences that have inspired folks, too. In my case it was quite a while before I started meeting actual winemakers so I track my inspiration and development by wines I’ve had that introduced me to something new and exciting, that made me see different possibilities. Another example is I thought I’d had a reasonable amount of Beaujolais in France and had a pretty low opinion of it as cheap, poorly made wine. Then a friend that was visiting me in Lyon grabbed a bottle of Marcel Lapierre Morgon off the shelf at my local caviste because he was attracted to the bottle (this is one I bought more recently).
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It changed my mind completely about Beaujolais (at least the Crus) and made me wonder, ‘what’s different - how did he do that?’ Gamay is the son of Pinot Noir and I’m growing the grandson, Marquette so wines like Lapierre’s make me think about the possibilities and what I want to aim for. Thanks everyone for sharing your stories!
 

Gilmango

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Forgive me if this has been done before already, but I thought it would be interesting for folks to share particular bottles of wine that either inspired them to begin winemaking or to improve their craft and take it in new directions.

For me, it was a bottle of 1999 Les Vins de Vienne Vacqueyras that I got to taste during the wine training at my first restaurant gig back in 2003 (not my photo).
View attachment 80857
We tasted plenty of wines and learned how to talk about them, but this one had something about it that I’d never smelled or tasted before in a wine. Breathing it in was like stepping into a walk-in humidor with beautiful aging cigars. That was when I fell in love with French wine and set off for France as a student hoping to learn more about winemaking.

It didn’t happen on that first tour and I ended up drinking a lot of average wine that didn’t recapture the initial magic. However, I read through Kermit Lynch’s Adventures on the Wine Route and began learning more about the specific French regions and the transition in the 70’s and 80’s in France from traditional to more modern industrial techniques, which he lamented.
View attachment 80862


When I went back to France for work several years later, I happened across this bottle of Clos Fantine Faugères on a trip down to Provence.
View attachment 80860
What caught my eye in the shop were the words ‘sans sulfite ajouté’ written on the side of the label. In his book, Kermit Lynch commented a lot on his belief that wines in France were being over sulfited and over filtered so I was intrigued to try something that had not had any sulfites added during the winemaking process. When I opened it up, I felt I had at last found the wine that had brought me to France in the first place: alive with with an energy that I hadn’t been able to find elsewhere. Now that I get to grow and make my own wine, these are some of the main ones that have inspired me. I don’t know if I’ll ever attain their success but am having fun trying! Are there bottles that have inspired you?
Loved seeing Kermit Lynch's book cited. Need to re-read that. I moved to Berkeley nearly 30 years ago to get a JD at Berkeley Law (then Boalt Hall), knowing very little about wine. But I discovered Kermit's store as it was right by the great Acme Bread bakery and the only homebrew store in Berkeley/Oakland (actually a wine making store too - Oak Barrel Winecraft 64-year-old Oak Barrel Winecraft has a new owner with big ideas, but I was just a beer and mead maker back then).

I soon realized how special even their entry level wines were (then for under $10/bottle I could get amazing wines like Lascaux, and even the "Gang of Four" beaujolais stuff was affordable then but has gotten a bit precious of late (the Lapierre whose Morgon is pictured in your more recent post, Thevent, Follard, Breton). Natural Wine Starts Here: Why the Beaujolais Gang of Four Still Matter

To be honest, I initially cut my wine teeth on CA Zins, Cabs, and Oz Shiraz before I came around to preferring the old world wines Kermit imported, trips to Italy, France, Spain, and elsewhere really helped. Now I've been hooked on 'old world' wines for years. Just wished I was putting those bottles away in my cellar back when prices were so much more reasonable.

And between Kermit always extolling "unfiltered, unfined" wines and WMT preaching patience and bulk aging, I dispensed with clearing agents by my 3rd kit wine (the 2nd one just got bentonite).
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These two wines are what opened my mind to the historial art form that is wine. I became so excited about them that I asked for the empty bottles and carefully removed the labels. That was about 45 years ago, i was in my early twenties and my girlfriend's father was one of those country lawyers who seemed to get gifted a lot of French wine. So I presumed ( too scared to ask) that he may have got a few of his clients off dangerous or drive driving charges. His ratty old farm shed out back was full of French wine. Bizarrely, he wasn’t much of a wine drinker ( more a whiskey man) but at least he shared these two with me.


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Gilmango

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A bit of a tangent, but there was a bottle which 100% was "the bottle" which inspired me to start cellaring (and "collecting") wines. And I think it is a somewhat funny story as well. I graduated Berkeley Law in 1995, took a job in NYC, where I met my future wife, and in 1997 we moved to San Francisco. I got a job at a big SF law firm which had more work than attorneys to do it, so I 'hit the ground running' and billed just over 1,000 hours in the 2nd half of 1997. Had I billed 2,000 hours for the full year I would have been eligible for a nice bonus on top of my salary.

At the end of the year, the head of my practice group came in to thank me for integrating into the group. He said, "Unfortunately, you are not bonus eligible having arrived mid year, but we really appreciate your hard work, and are giving you this special bottle of wine in lieu of a bonus." I took the bottle of wine from him, thanked him, and literally put the bottle behind me. I then told him that before I accepted their job offer, I had negotiated to be eligible for a pro-rated bonus based on my half year of work, so basically thanks so much for the wine, but you are going to have to pay me a bonus as well. He later confirmed with his colleague that we had agreed to this, I got my half bonus, and of course he never asked for the wine back.

The bottle was a 1989 Heitz Martha's Vineyard Napa Cab, one of the original 'cult cabs' of Napa Valley: 1636680160036.png
It cost over $100 new (the current release is $250), and was so far outside the price point where I drank then or drink now. How or when would I ever open it? If I did not open it, how could I store it so it would age well?

This basically was when I started to become a wine geek. I read about ideal cellar conditions. I measured the temperature in our garage storage unit in our apartment building in foggy western San Francisco. I was really lucky, as it never got warmer than 60, nor colder than 57. So into the cellar went this bottle, soon to be joined by other bottles of much lower cost wines (mostly $15-30 bottles) which I read were great QPR (quality to price ratio) and would improve with age.

I wish I was cellaring way more Kermit Lynch bargains back when the $ was stronger than the Euro and import tariffs were low, but mostly I cellared CA Cabs from 1997 and 1999 and dry German Rieslings from 2001 at the start. And the old world red wines I did age were also the first I reached for to drink from my cellar. I still have a few of the very well aged cabs and rieslings, including the bottle which started it all. Need to do an "open that bottle night" sooner than later and finally taste that Martha's Vineyard.
 
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