I was a bit confused when Greg said, “plan on leaving the hiking boots at home as we cruise Sonoma Mountain and beyond by pulling corks,” when he invited me out to his custom crush facility in the wine country.
What evolved was a whilwind barel tasting, which consisted of Greg wrangling ladders, jumping on barrels and thus confirming that a wine had aphrodisiac qualities to it (we left that bottle for him and and his wife to share, for the record).
Greg is, quite simply, a genius when it comes to wine. His wine label, Tandem, has shared many years basking in the spotlight, and it is, in part, thanks to Greg’s expert knowledge in sustainable and biodynamic wine growing. He also claims that the wine tastes great because of his bagpipe and penny-whistle playing to the wine while in the barrel. I think he’s just in the “flow”.
There is a level at which the struggles become effortless and it just makes sense. Such as the phrase, “Mozart’s music is too easy for children and too hard for adults” would equally apply to Greg’s winemaking style.
As he took us around the various barrels, he showcased how elevations and different clones make quite a difference in the wine (we were sampling Pinot Noir clones). Some clones complete with medium toasting on the barrels showcased more tobacco and dark fruit, while other clones in completely different barrels showcased beautiful cherries.
His knowledge ran deep, and yet he explained his methods for making great wine in very easy-to-understand methods. And in between the expert info came bits of bad jokes and a bunch of laughter.
In conclusion, I’d like to close with the same phrase as Greg closed out one of his e-mails to me. At the bottom, he wrote, Vint with Honor*, complete with the asterisk. He went on to follow up the mark with an explanation of how he felt he wished it would be used more often these days. At first read, I basically shrugged off the line. But reading it again after I had just spent a few hours spitting his prized Pinot into the drain, I now understand it. Greg is, without a doubt, a winemaker. And with a touch of grace, humility and a knowledge of vitaculture that could fill the UC Davis library, he makes great wine. I was honored and grateful to spend a few hours learning more about wine from one of the masters out there in the wine world.
And so, I say, to all the winemakers out there—Vint with Honor.
Haydn Adams is the author of the book, Wineries Beyond Napa Valley: Dry Creek and Alexander Valley, an insider’s tasting guide to the hidden gems region. He also contributes to the Beyond Napa Valley Wine Blog, writes for vinvillage.com, and can be found roaming the hills of Sonoma County looking for the next hidden gems. If he is not working in Marin or San Francisco, you can find him roaming the streets of Sonoma County (and at times, Napa, and at times Lodi) looking for that next hidden gem.