Success and good wine share many qualities; neither are as simple as money. Many rich folks are failures in the rest of their lives, and we all have opened a bottle that cost more than we should have spent, only to be disappointed. As difficult as it may be to establish parameters for success and wine, if we are honest we must conclude that the essences of both are assessed more by the heart than by the mind.
Finding and defining success is ambiguous at best, subjective at the least. I remember once in my youth a friend of my father’s, a bit influenced by libation’s effects, saying, “If you have five good friends in your life you are a success.” The years have taught me that his sentiments were not original, yet they are credible; true success is measured more by the intangibles of life and our relationships than anything else. The satisfaction of a good reputation, talents well used, and peace with who you are defines success better than money or title.
Albert Finney’s character in the movie A Good Year says, “What I like about wine is its honesty…” A successful winemaker takes simple grape juice, and then she produces a liquid that reveals the terroir in a beautiful liquid that touches the senses. People may fake success by acquiring the trappings of position or prestige, but no matter the price tag or the classy label one sip reveals the success or failure of the winemakers art.
A successful wine brings people together, friends sharing their joys and their tears, colleagues solving the issues of life. The wedding toasts that wish success to a loving couple make all vintages taste better than any terroir could ever produce. An evening spent with a special person by a fireplace with a glass of red adds subtleties no tasting notes can capture.
Wine Spectator ratings are important for marketing and prestige I am sure. Yet many of the most successful bottles I have drunk never made it into their ratings. A Coté du Rhone in Moustier Sainte Marie, or a house wine at Marianna’s Café in Gourds both made for a successful picnic and dinner.
When I think of wine and success I think of events. I remember a hot summer in Dundee, Oregon, the heart of the best Pinot Noirs in the world. My daughter was attending college in the neighboring town of Newberg; I had a few hours before she was done with classes, so I headed to Torii Mor, a long time favorite, one of my first wine clubs. They have a deck with a view that makes it worth visiting, even if they did not have one of the better Pinots out there, along with a couple of enjoyable whites and a port worth trying.
I bought a bottle of the Pinot Gris; it was hot after all, grabbed my MacAir and headed for the deck. Though the view was distracting (here is a sketch) I did get some writing done, chatted with some folks and had a wonderful time of it; success for sure.
So how do you define success? My guess is that your answer will give some insight into how you approach wine.
One of the people who introduced me to wine found his success in life connected with the size of his income and the prestigious home he built. All of the wines he ordered had impressive pedigrees and hefty price tags. Would he have ordered a carafe of house wine at a no-name place in Provence? I wonder.
You see, in the end I am convinced that the wine we drink is a reflection of the terroir of our heart. If wine is honest in that it reflects how and where it was made, then the wine we drink is a reflection of how we define success.
I wrote once, “The right direction leads to the right destination.” True for the successful life and true for the perfect wine. In the end the best life is one that is lived in harmony with our values and interests. The best wines reflect those same values and interests. Success in life and success in wine is about the journey, not the destination.