“There is nothing wrong with your screen. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. For the next few days, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure…” (1)
If during the course of reading this, you start to wonder if everyone at the Santa Maria Valley Wine County has gone insane (2), don’t worry, it only means that you’re paying attention. My name is Joe Roberts, better known to the online wine world as 1WineDude, and I’ll be posting here at onthewinetrail.wordpress.com and taking over the SMV Wines twitter feed during the 2013 Chardonnay Symposium (3). I’ll be acting as your live-in-the-sky guide (4) during the Symposium events, and will also post a few articles right here on this blog detailing some of the producers involved, and wrapping up the general awesomeness of the event afterward.
I’m excited about the gig, and about getting back to the Santa Maria Valley, and I wanted to tell you why I’m so excited about it (5).
For starters, I am stoked about the Chardonnay Symposium because I’m generally stoked about Santa Maria Valley.
How stoked? Enough that I included the Santa Barbara area among my list of The Five Most A**-Kicking (6) Wine Regions in my Wined Down column on Playboy.com. SMV is an anomaly, a rare breed in the dog-eat-dog world of fine wine, a place where many things can be done, and almost all of them done well. What I wrote for Playboy.com in 2012 still rings true for me:
“The wine area made famous by Sideways does, in fact, make ‘f**king Merlot.’ And Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah and just about any other fine wine grape variety you can imagine. The a**-kicking thing is that S.B. can do it all well. It’s a best-of-both-worlds kind of scenario that produces well-balanced grapes, which means that the winemakers have to do less in the winery, which ultimately means fewer opportunities to f** up what Mama Nature’s bounty has provided. It doesn’t have the cachet of Napa Valley, but that just means prices for the best stuff are still within fiscal reach of us 99 percenters.”
But it’s not the grape-growing ability that makes SMV stand out – that honor goes to the people who are making the wines there. There aren’t too many wine-growing regions in the world where people generally, genuinely, and so generously (7) support one another. They’re a talented bunch, who applaud and reward each other when they get it right, all of which should have SMV wine fans excited because it means that despite the fact that the wines are so good now, they probably have yet to achieve their highest highs (8).
The other reason I’m so excited to participate in the Symposium this year is that I think Chardonnay is awesome. Yes, I’m being serious! (9)
As a wine critic/personality/writer/geek, but simply and most especially as a wine lover, I’m clueless as to why Chardonnay gets blamed for almost everything that the wine world does wrong. Last time I checked, Romanee-Conti, Leflaive, and Leeuwin all made fine wine from Chardonnay that would blow your wine mind so dramatically that you’d need a ladder to get your hat down off the ceiling. And don’t even get me started on Champagne (10). Chardonnay didn’t invent the over-oaked, flabby, unbalanced fine wine, it just got slapped with the sign on its back when it wasn’t looking and was minding its own business.
You want to know why Chardonnay takes the fall for those overdone wines? Because it’s so awesome. Because people love it. Because people justifiably love its seeming contradictions of vibrancy and richness, of power and poise, of volume and subtlety. Chardonnay took the hit because those it the wine world who should have known better thought that they could get away with it.
The Chardonnay Symposium is your chance to see (11) the other side, your chance to sample some of the best Chardonnay that California has on offer. I’m so stoked because now it’s my chance, too. And I’m looking forward to seeing you there!
(1) – I am, in fact, old enough to know this reference. But just barely.
(2) – They may have gone insane to let me take over much of their social media, but the effect is only temporary.
(3) – What do you mean, you “don’t have tickets to it yet?!??” Get on it, already!!!
(4) – Except that I won’t actually be in the sky… and at 5’5″ tall, I won’t even be anywhere close to being in the sky, actually.
(5) – Aside from the fact that I’m getting paid to do it. C’mon, when was the last time that you did something for free for an entity that wasn’t a charity or non-profit? Yeah, that’s what I thought…
(6) – Note: not measured scientifically.
(7) – Sorry, I ran out of “g” words here.
(8) – Other California wine regions should probably be peeing their pants over this… but AVAs don’t wear pants so let’s just forget I said that, okay?
(9) – Why are you questioning me? In front of everyone like that? You always do this when we go out together!
(10) – Unless you’re buying, in which case, by all means please feel free to get me started.
(11) – Okay, technically it’s “taste.”