After a week in Aspen, I am compelled to point out (with awe) that there are folks that know more about our craft as it pertains to varietals, regions and viticulture intricacies than we do as winemakers. I spent several days doing a “ride along” with a sales rep who is going for his Master Sommelier certification. He informed me that there are two Master Somms in Aspen and went on to explain how prestigious of a ranking it is. Going around selling wines to the finest restaurants with a sommelier everybody knows and holds in high regard was also an eye opening experience. I love that these wine pros eat, breathe and dream wine as I do, but their approach, view, focus, angle, etc. is quite different from mine.
As a winemaker, if I were to flex my wine muscles and show off, I guess that would be akin to applauding my 92 point Wine Spectator score for making a monster Chardonnay from a famous vineyard. On the contrary, if these sommeliers want to flex their wine muscles it is more on the lines of “can you believe this beautiful Tokaji that is completely dry with big acid”, or, “this wine from Jura showing unique oxidized character” – from a region I have never even heard of! Point being, like any highly specialized niche pursuit, Master Somms are driven to hunt for a hit of the undiscovered, the future frontier, the “thing” that turns the game upside down.
At the end of the day, my hope is that these wine gurus can still find beauty in commonly recognized varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and Cabernet sourced from known world-class regions. Or, will these wines stultify them as they continue to chase the obscure, the cult, the secret?
Erik Miller / Winemaker