Of Oenologists and Choreographers and the Cleverness of the Craft

Merry Edwards WineryMeredith Edwards was the first formally educated female oenologist earning her degree from UC Davis. She worked as a vineyard manager until 1997 when she established her own winery, Merry Edwards, in the Russian River AVA of Sonoma. She is known for her beautiful Pinot Noir wines. The Russian River blend is lush, bright cherry with a chocolate finish. The Klopp Ranch Pinot Noir has blueberry and blackberry aromas, but still with a crisp structure. The Meredith Pinot Noir is earthy with aromas of dark fruit and spice, the most tannic of the three. All her Pinot Noirs are beautifully crafted and express the crispness one would expect from this cooler region of Sonoma.

I was talking to my daughter the other day about the different choreographers at her dance studio. They are all talented, each having his or her own style. But there is one choreographer in particular whose dances stand out above the others. We were trying to identify what made his work so notable, and the only word that expressed what we both perceived in his work was ‘clever.’ His choreography plays off the music and with the music in a way that is not quite expected, but not so different that it is unrecognizable. When we watch his dances, there is a moment of surprise and then a moment of, ‘oh, I see.’ It is this same cleverness that often makes many art forms appealing, writing, music, the visual arts, humor. When one is able to make a new observation that speaks a ‘not yet thought of’ truth as in, ‘I didn’t see that coming, but now that you mention it…,’ that is cleverness in art.

The Russian River AVA, while it grows many grapes, is known in particular for two, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They are two grapes that do very well in this cooler climate. Though firmly established in the Russian River AVA, Merry Edwards does not offer a Chardonnay as her white wine. Instead, she makes a Sauvignon Blanc, a grape more often found in warmer climates such as Bordeaux. Her Sauvignon Blanc is aged in 3 to 5-year-old oak barrels. The lees are stirred twice a week. The wine is aged for 6 months. And what she has crafted from this slightly out-of-place grape is a guava/pineapple flavored white wine with an absolutely sparkling acidity. It is lush and crisp and a little unexpected. The first sip is surprising and gets your attention. With the second sip you think to yourself, ‘Ah, now I get it,’ and by the third, it all makes perfect sense. Merry Edwards is able to take the Bordeaux grape, Sauvignon Blanc and play it off the Burgundian climate of Russian River in a very clever way.

Noble Grapes

While there are hundreds of types of grapes from which wine can be made, there are only seven ‘noble’ grapes. They are Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah for reds and in the whites Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. These are considered the higher quality grapes, otherwise known as noble.

The qualities on which a wine is judged is its acidity, sweetness, alcohol, and with red wine, tannins. It’s not just important to have each of those qualities, but they must be in balance with each other to make a good wine.

Marketta Formeaux of Chateau Potelle says that, “I like to compare making wine to raising children, because both are long-term procedures where you make decisions on a daily basis. And the sum of those decisions makes the final product.” When we raise our children, we want them to be lively, kind, warm, and have strong character. We also want our children to be well-balanced.

Last Sunday, our Pastor led the service even though he had recently lost his father, and had just been to the memorial service the day before. My friend’s son, Ryan, stepped up to be worship leader. He had just graduated from high school the day before, and so was functioning on very little sleep having been up late with friends. During the prayer, our Pastor choked up a bit and paused to collect himself. Without hesitating, Ryan walked over to the pastor, and put his hand on his shoulder, and stood with him.

We’re so proud of our kids when they accomplish things like graduating from high school or earning their PhD from Seminary. At the front of the church last Sunday I saw two sons, one meeting his obligations even though he was so newly mourning. One comforting the other without hesitating. I don’t think either one could have done anything to make his parents more proud of him then these simple acts that expressed for each his noble character.