WineInk: Wine resolutions for 2023
First, let me say I believe the best way to not make a significant change in a behavior is to set a New Year’s resolution to actually make that change. New Year’s resolutions almost invariably fail to work as planned. At least for me.
But, having said that, now that we are a week into 2023 (Can you believe it?), I’m going to go out on the proverbial limb and share a few thoughts on things that may well make your new wine year a bit better.
The goal is to suggest a few actions — not resolutions per se — that are meant to help you get the most out of the world of wine in the coming year. Some require a little work, but most are simple things that are fun to do and may just provide memories that last.
The first thing that any wine lover should resolve to do is Drink More Wines. That is not an admonition to drink more. But rather, a suggestion to try a greater variety of wines. It is so easy to get into a wine rut, where we only drink the wines we know. We end up depriving ourselves of great tastes and great stories. You may like California chardonnay, for instance, and there is nothing wrong with that, but you probably order it all the time.
There are so many other white-wine options to try from around the world that it seems a shame to not occasionally branch out. How about a lush Viognier from the Condrieu region of France or perhaps a crisp Godello from Galicia in Spain or an Aligoté from Burgundy? Not only are these grapes a little harder to pronounce, they can also provide a bit more adventure for those who dare seek them out. And, if you do, so your view of the wine world might broaden.
If you do decide to be adventurous, make your mark by putting it in writing. That’s right, scribble a wine note. How many times have you read a tasting note that you thought was just silly? Pretentious reviews that are seemingly written to intimidate rather than inform.
Well, turn that around, and Write a Tasting Note. It’s simple: Just pour a glass, take a taste, and put pen to paper, writing down what you like or don’t like about the wine. Observe the color, and give it a name, give the wine a good sniff, and describe what fruits or other aromas you smell. Take a sip, and explain in a few words what it tastes like. You are your own best critic; you know what you like. Put it on paper. It is a process that will help you pay more attention to the wines you love and clarify why you like them. Don’t try to be like standard wine notes. Just write what you think.
OK, so now that you are trying different wines and focusing enough to write about them, it’s time to Visit a Colorado Vineyard. We are fortunate here in Aspen to be just a couple of hours away from emerging wine regions in the West Elks and Grand Valley wine appellations. Plan this summer (Most of the wineries open toward the last weekend in May) to take a drive over Highway 133 to Paonia and Hotchkiss, where you can visit a number of wineries and tasting rooms including Qutori, Stone Cottage Cellars, and The Storm Cellar.
There, you can learn about how the high-altitude vines that are producing some of the best wines in the state. Turn your sights toward Palisade and the Grand Junction area, and you’ll find Colorado’s largest wine region, the Grand Valley AVA. A stop at Colterris Winery is the closest thing you’ll find in the state to a Napa Valley experience. Learn about hybrid grape varieties at Sauvage Spectrum Estate Vineyard and winery as you sip some bubbles. Or, climb into the front seat at Carboy Winery’s recently-opened facility at the Mt. Garfield Estate.
In fact, this may be the year to travel beyond the state, as well, and Explore a New Wine Region. So many of us here in Aspen are road warriors — why not tie a trip to a new region in with your regular travels? Going to San Diego for some surfing? Plan an adventure in Baja’s emerging Valle de Guadalupe wine region, less than 100 miles south of the border. Seattle on your itinerary? Then, rent a car, and take the drive to Walla Walla and absorb the outstanding wines of Eastern Washington.
If Europe is on the agenda, carve out a few days to immerse yourself in one of the epic wine regions that are a little further afield, say the hilly Mosel River region in Germany, France’s Alsace or Friuli, and Veneto in Italy where the Prosecco wines are made. Meeting winemakers face to face and walking the vineyards will provide never-forget-em wine experiences that will last a lifetime.
If you can’t take an actual trip, then the next best thing is to take a trip in a glass. And, it’s easy to do just that if you Shop at the Local Wine Stores. Again, living here in the Roaring Fork Valley, we have a great collection of wine shops — all with wines from around the globe. Stop in Jimbo’s in Basalt, and ask Gonzo for a recommendation from his native Argentina. Snowmass Liquors has an extensive selection of Rosé wines from both hemispheres that you can compare and contrast. And, Four Dogs in El Jebel sorts their wines by their country of origin. Buy local this year instead of doing the Costco shuttle or shopping online.
Another way to meet winemakers and sommeliers without hitting the road is to Go to the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. It’s just another advantage of living here. Each June, wine professionals from around the world find their way to our mountain hamlet to pour the best of their wares. If you have a ticket to the Classic, it’s a real chance to taste many of the most exciting wines and meet their makers. If you don’t have a ticket, do what many other locals do, and volunteer to work the event. It is a great way to get involved in Aspen’s premier summer gathering.
There are people, many of whom love to shop locally, who visit wineries and attend events like the Food & Wine Classic yet dislike what they perceive to be the pretentiousness of the wine. This year, let’s all make a resolution to Cut the Judgment and Lose the Intimidation when drinking or talking about wine. Wine should be — and is — an elixir that brings people together and unites. There is no place for those who use their knowledge of wine to lessen others’ enjoyment. Be positive people. Wine is for all of us.
And finally, I hope that, in 2023, you take the time to Read More About Wine. Be it in this column, the wine press, or online. It may a bit of a self-serving request, but there is value to reading and learning about wine, and it will enhance your enjoyment of the subject by getting to know about the people, places, and things that make wine special.
You need not resolve to do any of these, but, if you do, it should make for a better wine year.
2018 Duckhorn Merlot “Three Palms Vineyard”
Christmas dinner this year was a roasted duck served alongside this classic Merlot from one of the most iconic Napa Vineyards. We opened it in honor of Margaret Duckhorn, a co-founder of the fabled Duckhorn Vineyards who passed away just after Thanksgiving. In 1976, Margaret and husband, Dan Duckhorn, launched the eponymous winery with an eye toward producing quality Bordeaux style wines and focused on Merlot rather than the Cabernet Sauvignon that was so dominate in the Valley. She became a leader in the community as Duckhorn prospered and grew to include a number of other labels, including Goldeneye and Paraduxx. She left a legacy in wine.
“2023 predicted to be the Vintage of a Lifetime in Napa Valley,” proclaimed the headline this week in a press release sent out by the Napa Valley Vintners, the trade organization that represents the growers and producers in America’s most famed wine region. If there is anyone more optimistic than winemakers, it is the group that represents them.