So you’re looking for the right tool for the right job.  You scramble around and you don’t have the exact tool, but with a little innovation you tweak this, and that and holy shit it’s fixed.  Why?  Because of wisdom, experience, talent and ability to draw from those things at the right time at the right moment.  Well guess what, wine making is like that at least it should be.  Now for those who have followed my rantings for awhile you know I’m not much on interference once the job is done in the vineyard.  However, the truth is if you did not draw on your experiences then you are a fool, because history and wisdom along with knowledge can serve you well when confronted with a problem.
Let’s delve into wine and throw a few examples at you, shall we?  I have traveled most of the major vineyard land in Europe many times. I use this as the start of my example because all wine from Europe, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal etc…, is considered old world.  Every other region of the Globe is considered New World, that’s South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Chili, Argentina, Canada, and the United States. There are more but we should be on the same page.  It does matter how long we have been making wine we will always be New World because Europe has been making wine for centuries and we have stolen many of their tricks.  As I was saying I have been to many of these places, and tasted many of these wines for a long time, and through many vintages going back to the 1800’s.  That’s tool 1 Pallet Memory, tasting thousands of wines over a long period of time.  I have also made it a point to understand how these wines were constructed, vineyard practices, fermentation practices, and most of all their blending techniques.  Think if you will the Non Vintage Champagne.  There are sometimes 3 maybe 4 different vintages to come up with a consistent house style.  Year in and year out, this my friends is great blending.  Or maybe we should talk about Chateauneuf Du Pape in Southern Rhone.  Every year they are faced with constructing a house style and are allowed to use 13 different grapes.  Five of which are white.  Any combination is allowed to make the best, and reproduce consistency year in and year out.  So Tool 2 is Construction, what works what has been done before.  Then there’s innovation, what has not been tried but you do it anyway.  Not a lot has not been tried so we will leave that alone for now.  So how does this relate to us? Glad you asked!  If you’re faced with a moment and you’re not totally happy with the results and don’t have the experience, knowledge, or tools to fix it then you’re stuck and bottle something that may or may not have been better.  Your experience and memory serves well in times like this.  I just bottled our 2007 Greg Linn Wines Rim Rock Syrah.  As I was putting it together I blind tasted every barrel, 8 in all and they were all great.  This is not always the case.  Blending can be the most rewarding and frustrating thing we do!  I did a bench trial of equal parts of each barrel and although the wine was very good I was not happy with it and put it aside after two days of unsuccessful combinations.  I started assembling our new chardonnays.  I did not like my initial five blends and soon realized out of 17 barrels there had to be 1 maybe 2 that were just too floral.  To shorten this I found one barrel that was getting too much oak and was too sweet from what I like to call (“a run away barrel”) my term.  This was a brand new barrel from the greatest forest with what was supposed to be the tightest grain.  Although I paid dearly for it the wine was just too sweet from the oak and tasted more like Viognier than Chardonnay.  I removed the barrel from the blend and bam the wine was great.  This was a week later and then I returned my attention to that Syrah.  I decided well, this just needs something, and I started to wish I had some Viognier that is used in many Syrahs of Northern Rhone.  Normally in small amount say 1 to 5%.  We used some Viognier in our 2005 for example, but we did not have any.  Then the light went on, what about a barrel of Chardonnay that tasted like Viognier not Chardonnay.  Well 3.5% later we ended up with a perfect blend and our best Syrah to date.  Why? Because I remembered that’s why and because even though you might not have the right tool, improvising is allowed.  Experience, Knowledge and using what you have to make things better.  This is only possible if you taste as much as possible, read as much as possible and there’s no substitute for experience.
To all those fix it men and women out there, you know what I’m talking about!

Greg Linn

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