Measuring Greatness

As a young boy greatness was measured in how many home runs one hit, (Mickey Mantle) or by golf tournaments won (Arnold Palmer). I know there are others with more of both but those were my childhood legends. As one proceeded, you realize greatness is at home. Your Father who worked a factory job he hated to feed five kids, and a mother driving Special Ed. kids to and from school and always managed to have dinner on the table. These memories are vivid and are the guiding force in what makes that which you are.

We strive to make Great Wine! We spare no expense trying to achieve greatness, but what does that mean? How is greatness measured? If a wine achieves 100 years of life and taste wonderful, that is surely one major measurement. But the person making that wine is no longer here to enjoy it. I bet he wishes it would have been wonderful a bit earlier! I hear people talk of legacy’s, that which you left behind after your demise.

Maybe that’s a great thing, having that library named after you, but what about a legacy while we’re still upright? What about someone saying hey that guy over there makes a damn good bottle of wine that drinks beautifully NOW! Is that a great wine?

Coming from the elite collectors club, (long since over that), I thought a great bottle of wine must age in the form of decades to be considered for this high moniker. But do we really enjoy a great bottle of Bordeaux when it’s first released, or a Syrah made from the great Rhone Valley? I have made wines that surely will age with time, in fact every Pinot I have ever made is still alive and well. The 2007 Vintage is just starting to hit its stride and our 2009’s are only beginning to give up their stuffing. Because I make wines old school with 100% stem inclusion, they need time to integrate and for the fruit to balance out the wine as it rises. This takes, “Time” and is why we hold back on many vintages. Also because we pick so early with much lower alcohol’s this leads to even more time. So what is there to be done?

For the record, I have not invented anything new in the wine making process. The best thing that can be said of us is we are not afraid of trying things we have not tried before. From our vineyards practices to our barrel selections we continue to progress, evolve searching for that which can never be achieved, perfection! As the great Bagger Vance once said, “It’s a game that can never be won, only played”!

So where am I going with this? Since I believe whole heartily in stem inclusion, I am now experimenting with processes to bring our wines to their pinnacle sooner rather than later. This should really make our friends in the restaurant community happy. Now that does not mean our wines won’t age as they most certainly will continue to live for a decade or more. However, they will come to you with great joy and give up their bounty a little sooner. So I ask does this forfeit the “A” list, forever destined for the honorable mention? I for one don’t think so! If given the choice between holding a “trophy” that may be only ready after you “Get Low” or drinking it at its pinnacle before the doctor says quit, that’s an easy choice for me.

Maybe this comes from Wisdom, a big word for getting old. Or maybe it’s common sense. As I reach back and head for 60, as George Burns once said, “I no longer order green bananas” or my all time favorite, “I ordered a two minute egg and they made me pay in advance”! Sorry a little levity is always a good thing.

So is greatness measured in years, or is it in the character of a wine, the many dimensions it brings forth. The extreme pleasure it gives you when you open it, and rewards you with complexity, measured in mouth feel, multiple flavors that bombard your pallet and bring forth ecstasy.

I am moving beyond the what “if’s” of life! Where will this go, what is the potential. I want instant gratification, and although I can’t be 100% accurate making our wines give it all up when released, I can give you more enjoyment earlier and still allow you to hold them for another day, week, month or decade of enjoyment.

This is a game that can’t be won, only played!

Greg Linn

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