Monday, September 15, 2014

The Linoleum Project™--Philosophy First, Winemaking Second

Harvest is in full swing here at Splooge Estate, and while our neighbors are bringing in their incredibly boring Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc—the so-called “workhorse” grapes (“workhouse” because their only worth is to get you plowed)—we’re harvesting more important varieties, varieties you haven’t heard of. The best and most obscure are earmarked for The Linoleum Project™. We thought we’d take a moment of your time to explain in a bit more detail the philosophy behind the wines of The Linoleum Project™. Unlike most wines produced, these are not wines aimed at pleasure. These are wines meant to express the ultimate meaninglessness of life, the charade of importance that is human existence—the very things that make you want to drink. Everyone pays lip service to a philosophy of winemaking, but they put the cart before the workhorse. At The Linoleum Project™ we put philosophy first, and winemaking a distant second. We believe in winemaking by philosophy. We are teachers first, winemakers second. We truly believe in the old saw that, “Those who can do, those who Kant philosophize.”

Perhaps the best way to understand our winemaking by philosophy is to understand how each individual wine is made, how philosophy and overthinking combine to make wines that reflect not only their terroir, but each person’s hopelessness in the face of a godless universe. Certainly one can enjoy wines that only express a sense of place, a minerally and precise Grand Cru Chablis, for example. But there is a price to be paid for living an unexamined life. Isn’t it far more rewarding and satisfying to murder an innocent oyster with a blunt knife and then wash it down with a crisp white wine that celebrates not only the oyster’s salinity, but your own feeling that life is worthless, nothing but a snotty slide down eternity’s esophagus? Of course. Welcome to our world.

2014 Gaglioppo
The vineyard that is the source of our Gaglioppo is in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. While many wineries have complained about the unfortunate earthquake that struck the region this year, at The Linoleum Project™ we celebrate it. In truth, our Gaglioppo perfectly reflects its tumultuous terroir. Put your nose in a glass of any vintage. What do you smell? Faults! You might be tempted to think that those faults are the result of poor winemaking. This reflects your usual simpleminded approach to wine, an approach that believes pleasure is wine’s chief goal. Don’t feel bad. Your limited intelligence is how you became one of our mailing list customers. In truth, it’s philosophy that defines our Gaglioppo.

When we reflect upon our own character, it’s our faults that plague us. As Kafka memorably put it, “Wir sind ein Haufen Scheisse.” (“We’re a pile of shit,” which considering his intestinal problems, is a loose translation.) So not only will our 2014 Gaglioppo reflect its origins in Calabria, it will also reflect man’s ultimate unworthiness. We are our faults, and our faults are us. We live our lives trying to embrace our faults. It’s this basic philosophy that informs the wines of The Linoleum Project™. If you love our wines, you must embrace faults. You cannot love yourself if you cannot love our faulty Gaglioppo. This is how wine can enrich your life—through following philosophy instead of cold, hard, unfeeling chemistry.

2014 Ebola Gialla
We very much like the look of our 2014 Ebola Gialla clusters. Ebola Gialla is a very rare variety, thought to be Ribolla Gialla crossed with a fruit bat. Over the past few vintages, our Ebola has done very poorly with the press. James Laube called it, “maybe the worst white wine I’ve ever had that wasn’t Grüner.” Robert Parker thought it “despicable, though it helped me lose some weight.” Jon Bonné says our Ebola is “maybe the finest white wine coming out of Napa Valley, though, in truth, I hate wine.” These quotes are exactly the point of our Ebola.

At The Linoleum Project™ we take a nihilistic approach to our Ebola. Nietzche is our guiding light, and it was his assertion that all values are baseless, that absolutely nothing can be communicated, that nothing is known. This is the precise basis for all scoring systems and wine reviews—indeed the 100 point scale is baseless, and wine descriptions communicate nothing. “Nothing is known” is pretty much the resumé for Neal Martin.  So it seems appropriate as a philosophy of winemaking as well.  We even take it a step further, utilizing the truth of existential nihilism (not just Nihilism Lite)—the certainty that life itself is meaningless. Then isn’t winemaking itself meaningless? Isn’t trying to assign meaning to wine futile and ignorant? Isn’t this apparent when you read wine blogs? Our Ebola reflects the words of Nietzche, “Nihilism is . . . not only the belief that everything deserves to perish; but one actually puts one’s shoulder to the plough; one destroys” Starting with your liver.

We encourage you to share a glass of our Ebola at your next meaningless meal with someone you don’t particularly care lives or dies. This is more than likely yourself.

2014 Tannat
Tannat is a variety that has gained some popularity in recent years, perhaps because, like life itself, it’s the same thing backwards or forwards. In France, Tannat is the primary grape in Madiran, and an important component of many wines from Cahors. In terms of philosophy, it may have been tempting to place Descartes before Cahors, or maybe mullah over how mad Iran is. But, fundamentally, at The Linoleum Project™ we hate Tannat. Which is why each vintage we seek it out. We don’t believe in working with varieties we actually enjoy. That would give us pleasure, and pleasure leads to complacency, a quality prevalent in winemaking today. No, we make our Tannat with a focus on anhedonia, and we think that makes it taste better because it is incapable of delivering taste.

In our view, too often we expect pleasure from wine. We reach for a bottle with an expectation of joy and sensual pleasure. Only to be routinely disappointed. We want you to know that our Tannat is made with the philosophy that life is better when you are unable to experience happiness, and that our wine is designed to make sure you do not. In this respect, our Tannat shares much with rating wines on a numerical scale, for isn’t that very scale about anhedonia? Can you consume a wine rated 89 and enjoy it knowing that somewhere someone richer than you, smarter than you, and better looking than you is drinking a wine rated 100? When you drink 89 point wine aren’t you denying yourself pleasure, illustrating your basic self-contempt, but, more importantly, not caring. Not caring because you cannot feel joy anyway? This is our Tannat in a nutshell.

Enjoy it alone, in the darkness of your soul, with a nice venison stew.

Monday, September 8, 2014

IPOB Attacks!

When a hooded member of IPOB trepanned James Laube with a Coravin, and the rebel group posted the video on YouTube, the wine community responded with outrage. It’s a graphic and horrifying video, the gaunt Laube appearing stoic as the Coravin’s needle penetrates his skull, the instrument of torture replacing the fetid air inside Laube’s head with a neutral Argon gas. “No one will be able to tell the difference in Laube’s reviews,” IPOB said in a written statement, “we just wanted everyone to get a little taste of what’s in there. Oddly, we noticed the escaping gas smelled distinctly of skunk.” The statement was entitled, “O Mercaptan! My Mercaptan!”

The trepanation of Laube, explained by the hooded IPOB thug in the video as “putting a C-hole in the A-hole,” was just the most recent offense carried out by the mysterious group of winemakers known as IPOB. To the media, “IPOB” is always said to stand for “In Pursuit of Balance.” But, according to anonymous insiders, the group’s acronym actually stands for “Incredibly Pretentious Organized Blowhards.” In the past couple of years, IPOB has managed to terrorize the wine establishment with its blend of propaganda, fear-mongering and dreadfully dull seminars, all aimed at achieving their ultimate goal—total wine domination.

After Laube’s public trepanation, his employer, Wine Spectator, released this statement: 

“The Coravin-ing of James Laube will not, in any way, deter us from our mission of reducing every wine to a single number up to 100. Winemakers around the world work tirelessly each vintage to produce their wines, risking everything they own, laboring long hours every day, simply for the opportunity to have their efforts summed up by Wine Spectator in a number. We will not disappoint the vintners of the world by succumbing to one terrorist group’s insane call for ‘balance.’ Wine is, and always has been, about alcohol. The call for balance is a thinly disguised neo-Prohibitionist movement, and our colleague Laube’s glorified noogie only demonstrates how un-balanced members of IPOB are.”

Only weeks before, IPOB had claimed credit for the Napa earthquake. “Until owners and winemakers in Napa Valley back off on their obscene ripeness levels and begin to make wines the way God intended—under 13% alcohol—we will continue to use our massive accumulative brain power to destroy the very ground under them.” Seismologists at Cal Tech deny the possibility that IPOB could have triggered a massive quake with their minds noting, “Randall Grahm isn’t even a member.”

Wine terrorist experts are fearful that IPOB has become more and more desperate, and may resort to even more dangerous techniques to try and enforce their beliefs. According to records recently released under the Freedom of Information act, the group had plans to kidnap Robert Parker, Jr and force him to give high scores to the wines made by members of IPOB by waterboarding him with Ribolla Gialla. The plan nearly worked, and certainly would have worked if they’d made the Ribolla into wine first. “Hard to shove those grapes down his nostrils,” one member wryly remarked.

IPOB, according to yet another report, had plans to disrupt the annual Zinfandel tasting organized by its archrival ZAP. A few members of IPOB were planning to form a human barrier to the event by handcuffing themselves together linked to a powerful explosive device and blocking the entrance, but their plans were foiled when hackers for ZAP quickly discovered a way around the Peay wall.

Little is known about how winemakers are recruited for IPOB. Membership information is closely guarded, and the organization is tight-lipped about the actual process. Many who have attempted to join IPOB have been scorned, usually because their wines are said to lack “balance.” Yet a cursory glimpse of IPOB’s roster seems to indicate absolute randomness in who is accepted into its ranks, and who is not. There seems to be something more than “balance” in play, something else that decides what wines are up to Parr. There have been accusations that IPOB uses “balance” as a determining factor for wine the same way Republicans use “valid ID” when it comes to voting—as a red herring. And everyone knows a red doesn’t go with herring.

The brutal and escalating fight over “balance” didn’t begin with IPOB, however. Other businesses have claimed exclusive ownership of the word. FOX News laid claim to being “Fair and Balanced” with equal authority. Creating “balanced” budgets allows our legislative branches a way to legitimize income inequality. Cereal companies sell junk food to kids as “balanced” breakfasts.  Humans love the idea of balance. Most think they know it when they have it, know it when they taste it, know it better than anyone else. They crave it, they admire it, and they fall for it every time. What sort of balance is that?

James Laube was released unharmed, claiming the trepanning didn’t even hurt. “Hell,” Laube said, “I’m a numbskull.”

Monday, September 1, 2014

How to Be a Successful Sommelier

Having the letters “M.S.” after your name doesn’t mean you’re a sommelier. A sommelier works in a restaurant. From the several dozen I’ve met, judging by their occupations, I was pretty sure “M.S.” stood for “Master Shill.” I, also, have letters after my name, letters I awarded myself for my particularly vast knowledge of wine, and who better to recognize that vast knowledge than me?, but the letters, “H.M.W.,” are often misunderstood. Most people assume “H.M.W.” stands for “HoseMaster of Wine.” I can understand the confusion. But, in fact, they stand for “His Majesty of Wine.” It’s only my humility that keeps me from pointing it out more often. Though I’ll thank you all to address me properly in the future. It’s a bit pretentious, but I don’t make the rules. So from now on it’s, “His Royal Highness, Commander of Wine, HoseMaster of Wine the First.” I love titles!

For the rest of my sage advice on how to be a great sommelier, you'll have to jump over to Tim Atkin's award-winning wine site. Leave plenty of witty comments, and a small gratuity for the busboy.

Tim Atkin, MW