Aspen Times Weekly WineInk: My Gift |

Aspen Times Weekly WineInk: My Gift

The Columnist’s (that would be me) list of some favorite WineInks:

WineInk #1

I’m a Lucky Guy, 2007

You always love your first.

WineInk #43

April on Spring Mountain, 2008

First in a series that followed the crew at Spring Mountain through a full vintage.

WineInk #152

Mornington Peninsula Pinot, 2010

A cool climate Pinot hot bed in Australia.

WineInk #190 Classic Calera, 2011

Skiing with Josh Jensen is an honor.

WineInk #291 Cesar Chavez, 2013

The farm worker is inducted to the Vintners Hall of Fame.

If you looked at the pictures on the page to your right before reading this article — like I and most people assuredly do — then you probably are expecting to read about Burgundy. That’s because I told my esteemed editor, Jeanne McGovern, that this story was going to be about Burgundy and asked her to find, as she so often does, brilliant pictures to supplement and enhance the words I wrote.

Now don’t worry, you’ll get your Burgundy story next week.

But after putting the Burgundy story in solid shape over the weekend, I went skiing on Monday, the day that this story is due to the aforementioned esteemed editor. It was, as those few who were on the hill know, a spectacular ski day. A foot of dry powder, cool temps and sunshine. If ski days were given ratings, like, say, a Chablis, on a 100-point scale, I would have given Monday April 14, 2014, a 98. My only quibble is that the snow got a touch heavy in the final hour for my well-turned legs. Though I guess that is like docking a wine two points because it was so good you got a hangover after indulging in the entire bottle.

Anyway, the day was the kind that made those of us who live here feel intense gratitude for all of our undeserved and, I suppose, occasionally deserved gifts. To be able to ski on a Monday like that and have your esteemed editor give you a hall pass for your submission is, well, not just one gift, but two. As I contemplated my great good fortune on the lifts between turns, my thoughts turned to this column and to what an incredible gift it is to write it every week.

“after putting the Burgundy story in solid shape
over the weekend, I went skiing on Monday. it
was, as those few who were on the hill know, a
spectacular ski day. A foot of dry powder, cool
temps and sunshine. If ski days were given ratings,
like, say, a Chablis, on a 100-point scale, I would
have given Monday April 14, 2014, a 98.”

This is the 352nd edition of WineInk. That means its lifespan is just more than seven years. The impact that writing it has had on my life can be described as nothing short of extraordinary. While I am not so sure that you can say the same about the impact that WineInk has had on this community, I am proud to note that the other paper added a columnist following the launch of WineInk. Drew Stofflet does a great job of making this town of 5,000 or so full-timers a two wine- column town — something I believe must be unique in all of America.

But enough about the community. Let’s talk about me.

Over the past seven years, I have immersed myself in the world of wine. Do you have any idea how great that is? I have traveled from Old Alsace to New Zealand, from Beaune to Boonville, from Coonawara to Calistoga, from Osoyoos to Temecula in search of great wine stories. And everywhere I go in this quest there are beautiful vineyards, unique wineries and, most of all, captivating people. I have been to wineries in North Carolina and Wisconsin and Texas, and I can say unequivocally, without hesitation or hyperbole, that I have never been to a winery that I didn’t both enjoy and learn something from during my visit. How many things in your job can you say that about?

When I’m asked if my column rates wines and if I am a critic, I say no, I only rate ski days and that WineInk is about celebrating the people, places and things that make wine great. And clearly, as I look back on the previous 351 columns, there is solid emphasis on people.

Wine folk are innovative, creative, dedicated, persevering, courageous, whimsical, and a little crazy. And consider that they make their living by interacting with Gaia, Mother Earth herself. It takes some chutzpah to say that you are going to be in the wine business. To leave city life and become a farmer, to put your trust in the dirt and the vines and the weather. But in the New World, that is exactly what winemakers have done. They have decided that because of the passion, the desire to make something from scratch every year, and perhaps whimsy, that the world of wine is for them. For me, the people who make those kinds of decisions are irresistible.

In addition to going to great places and meeting great people, one significant element of your job as a wine writer is that you, wait for it, drink wine. I recently came to the conclusion that if I am either skiing or drinking, then I am actually growing as a person. If not, well…

So with all of this floating around my ever-evolving and expanding mind (remember I was skiing), I just wanted to take this opportunity to express profound appreciation for having this gift, this opportunity. I wish to thank Gaia, for giving us the fruits of the earth; Bacchus, the Greek God of Wine, for blessing vintners and wine lovers everywhere; Ullr, for the snow, of course; and my aforementioned esteemed editor, the Goddess of WineInk

In fact, the final deity comes first.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at

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