Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk
December 10, 2010
I’m sitting here in a luxury Aspen hotel, the Limelight to be precise, with a glass of wine at 7 in the morning, contemplating what to write about this week for my column.
You may think it’s easy, coming up with 750 words or so each and every week about wine. You may think the life is all about tasting great bottles, talking to interesting people, going to spectacular places, studying beautiful books. But the fact is, it’s hard work. Not boot-packing Highland Bowl hard work, or setting a GS course in a snowstorm hard work, but still …
Basically the drill is this: I write down a plan each month with four stories. The stories come to me in different ways. Maybe I drank a bottle of wine that was interesting, perhaps I received an e-mail from a winemaker about something unique that he or she is doing. I could have gone to a winemakers dinner and been inspired by tales of toiling in a particular vineyard. Maybe a new study about the effects of wine on the metabolism has caught my eye, or there could have been a change in the weather in a particular wine region that has affected the growing season … whatever. Anyway, I have a list of things to research each month.
I create a template for notes on each subject and then, as the month rolls on, I conduct interviews, read articles and go through wine books for research. Oh, and I taste wines. Lots of them.
The tasting is what everyone considers to be the reason people get into wine writing. And they’re right. People who take four to six hours each week to sit down and type a column about wine generally really, really like to drink wine. I, myself, plead guilty to this obsession. As a result I taste/drink wine, if not every day, then conservatively 9.5 out of every 10 days. And I love it. I rarely drink dreck and the diversity of wines that I taste makes for them forever compelling and, in a word, tasty.
But even more enjoyable than tasting is the opportunity that writing this column affords me regularly to talk with winemakers and people in the industry. Wine folk are among the most interesting folk in the world.
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Think about it. Winemakers make stuff. They work hand-in-hand with nature for six months to coax nutrients out of the ground, into a vine, many that are older than the winemaker himself, to produce plump clusters and bunches of grapes. Then they wait until the exact moment when sun, wind, rain and fog have coalesced to create the perfect synergy of sugars in the berries so that they can swiftly harvest them and get the grapes into a winery, where the alchemy begins that will eventually produce magic in a bottle.
Then there is the travel. As I have said before in this space, great grapes grow in great places. The coast of California, the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Burgundy and Alsace in France, Piedmont and Tuscany in Italy, the Margaret River and Mornington Peninsula in Australia. These are places of great physical beauty and I have, as a result of writing about wine, been able to see the sights, smell the smells and taste the wines in all of these places. Truly blessed is all I can say about that.
And of course there is the research. My day job involves working on the NBC broadcast of Sunday Night Football. In that capacity I devour books, press releases and articles obsessively. Wine writing requires much the same. Learning about a grape, the region it’s from, the people who make the wines, the best vintages, is a lot like researching a quarterback, where he came from, how he works with a particular coach, which situations he is most effective in. The skill set is strikingly similar and I love reading about wine.
So as I sit here at 10 a.m., my morning glass of wine finished and my navel-gazing nearly complete, I guess I have to say that, yeah, the wine writing life is all about tasting great bottles, talking to interesting people, going to spectacular places, studying beautiful books.
It sure doesn’t suck.