It was inevitable that there would be a less than glowing review of the book. In this instance, it came from Steve Heimoff, a generally fair-minded, certainly quite opinionated individual, and very much his own man.1 I won’t try to paraphrase Steve’s critique. You can look up the review yourself at www… But it did bring up a number of interesting points for me.2 He spoke a bit about my obsessive preoccupation with Robert Parker and The Wine Spectator, perhaps worthy of clinical interest, and I can’t say that I disagree with him on that. In retrospect, I probably should have cut more of this nonsense out of the book than I did,3 but were I to have done so, it would have been a rather different book, more gracious, to be sure, but somehow less honest. As Doctor Freud has pointed out, there is never simply one motivation for any behavior. Yes, I have real problems with point scores; I have real problems with the ubiquity of the “international style,” with wines that are so “great” and concentrated as to be undrinkable. Would my voice be as shrill had Mr. Parker and the Wine Speaker been more charitable to my wines?4 Most likely not, truth be told; who in their right mind bites the hand that feeds it? I suppose I am still more than a little embarrassed by such a patent strong need then (and likely still, who knows?) to be liked or loved. Certainly the force of my argument carries some valence of anger, or just perhaps hurt.
But here’s the thing: Maybe in the book I didn’t make the point quite explicitly enough, or perhaps Steve didn’t quite pick up on it. While the book may be read as a settling of accounts with my various bêtes noirs, I am hoping that it might also be read as an account of my journey from my life as more marketer than winemaker to my life as a true and sincere seeker of terroir. The point is that if you are truly in the quest for terroir, the wine, quite simply, is no longer about you. It’s about the place, and in some sense, this is incredibly liberating. Winemakers, of course, still have egos, and are generally happy when other human beings like their wines rather than hate them. But for me at least, the opportunity to pursue a vin de terroir is the special gift that has been given to me as a practice to set aside (at least for a moment) my insatiable appetite for approval and focus on the business at hand of addressing terroir, one that leaves little time for the distraction of worry about whether one is understood/misunderstood, liked or loved. Yeah, it would be great if the important critics loved the wines – it would be quite helpful from a sales standpoint, but the fact remains that we’re going where we’re going. Whether we will ever get there remains to be seen, but I know that I am giving it a sincere effort.
- Steve, I learned, also a student of existential philosophy in school, as was I. [↩]
- You can certainly learn more about yourself when people are critical than when they are adulatory. [↩]
- I certainly did my best to cut a fair bit; he should have seen all of the material that was left on the cutting room floor, as it were. [↩]
- This is a bit of a logical conundrum, because my wines are emphatically not fruit bombs, nor aspire to be; maybe in this imaginary universe, I would be made an exception. [↩]