Lately I’ve found myself at (what I’d consider to be) a lot of (what I would call) professional (or, at least, semi-professional) environments in which I am expected (or at least it seems that way) to taste wine in the hopes that I might critically evaluate it (but with fewer parenthetical interruptions if I do).
I’m rarely alone at those moments – I’m usually part of a small group of bloggers, traditional press, or some mixture thereof. But I am usually alone in at least one respect at those tastings: I’m the one asking for a spit bucket.
Or the one looking around for an open outside door, empty unused glass, drainage grate, or random patch of grass so that I can spit. More often than not, I feel as though I’ve got to explain myself, and/or am left wondering why a winery or event coordinator hasn’t thought to at least provide a plastic cup for spitting purposes.
More concerning to me is that the majority of my peers at these tastings don’t seem to feel the slightest need to spit.
Now, I’m not about to tell someone how they should evaluate wine, and I’m certainly in the "wine tasting is more subjective than objective" camp – but I’m baffled as to how someone can taste several wines without spitting and think that they can remain cogent enough to provide an ounce of objective viewpoint about it all later…
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Hang on to your tin foil cone hats, people. Today’s discussion is about to get… freaky. For those of you who give up on me in this post, I promise this will be the last time I talk about the Andromeda Paradox in relation to wine, ok?
You see, the thing is, time is relative. Which means that your future may be predetermined; which means that you might not actually have the freewill that you thought you had, but it doesn’t matter anyway because you need to fulfill the destiny of the present moment because that’s the only moment that truly matters because it’s immutable. So if you’re drinking a glass of wine right now, give it your full attention because as far as that immutable moment is concerned, you will be appreciating that wine for eternity.
Don’t worry – it will all make sense in a minute or two. Or several. I think. Let’s start at the beginning.
Time is relative
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the sense that time is the same for all of us is an illusion, though happily the relativistic nature of time only manifests itself when dealing with extreme circumstances, like, say, traveling in a car at almost the speed of light (sorry, speed demons – even the latest Yahama crotch-rocket motorcycles can’t even come close to that speed). But the fact remains, proven scientifically with astounding accuracy: time is not the same for all observers in the Universe. Which results in interesting phenomena like the Andromeda Paradox.
Your Future Has Already Happened. Sort Of.
In the Andromeda Paradox, "when someone is moving towards a distant point there are later events at that point than for someone who is not moving towards the distant point. There is a time gap between the events in the present moment of the two people."
Let’s look at it this way – let’s say you’re on vacation in the Andromeda galaxy and are planning on enjoying some kick-ass Andromedean wine. Back on Earth, one of your wine-loving friends is looking to the sky via telescope to see how your Andromeda wine-vacation is coming along (let’s ignore the fact that it would take about two million years for the light to reach her telescope). If your friend is at her house (stationary, in Earth terms), what she might see is you contemplating what wine to buy and where to drink it. Simple enough, right?
Let’s say your friend then calls one of her friends via cell phone. That particular friend is in a car, moving very fast (like, almost light-speed fast) in the general direction of the Andromeda galaxy, and also has a kick-ass telescope. Ignoring the rules of good road safety, he decides to look into his telescope while driving to see how you’re coming along on your vacation, now that your first friend has piqued his interest by mentioning that you were vacationing in Andromeda.
But what he sees is not what your other friend sees. He sees you already at an Andromedean restaurant and drinking the wine that you’ve not even yet decided on trying according to your other friend. Your stationary friend? She sees you still deciding what wine to try. And both of them are right.
Hence the paradox: "…two observers observe the same events – two million year old events in their telescopes – but the moving observer must assume that events at the present moment on Andromeda are a day or two in advance of those in the present moment of the stationary observer."
And the freakiness has only just begun…
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Bart Araujo is an intense man.
It’s obvious when you meet him, if you’re paying enough attention. And you’d have plenty of opportunity to pay attention during a visit to his Araujo estate, which for me began not in the vineyard, but in the winery’s offices. We were standing in front of empty bottles of some of the best wines that this Calistoga property – the Eisele vineyard – has ever produced (some of which were made in basements during the `70s and `80s by dedicated hobbyists, and are obscure enough bottlings that you’ve likely never heard of them, even if you consider yourself a fervent wine geek.
Bart gave the same treatment to Jon Bonne recently, so I’m pretty sure that the brief history lesson in the final products from Eisele vineyard is S.O.P. for visiting press at Araujo.
The message? Context is everything.
One might, at first meeting, take Bart to be a bit too serious, which would be slightly off-the-mark. He jokes (albeit dryly). He smiles. He offers his time generously. But he is definitely… focused. “You have to reach for perfection,” he told me. “Of course, you’ll never quite achieve it, but aiming lower means sacrificing something. Otherwise, you might as well be making Coca-Cola.”
Given his obvious pride in the history of Araujo, including its wines and the heritage of its impeccably maintained Calistoga vineyard, one might also mistake Bart Araujo as smug. While his demeanor has been described by one Calistoga wine insider as possessing a good deal of the “Yes, I did” factor, that too is misleading – it would be more accurate to say that Bart Araujo’s demeanor reflects his knowledge of what the Eisele vineyard is capable of producing when it comes to fine wine. Which is to say, some of the best wines produced in all of the Napa Valley – putting them in the running for some of the best wines in the world.
“Yes, It did” is what Bart’s demeanor is actually saying.
Why are we spending so much time on Araujo’s proprietor? Because in this case, context really is everything, and to understand Araujo’s wines, you need to get inside Bart Araujo’s head, just a little. He is far from a distant figure of a landlord: he still helps to make the call on the final blend, and is familiar with even intimate details about what is happening in their biodynamic vineyards. Saying that Bart is involved in the production of Araujo’s wines is a bit like saying that Argentinosaurus was a slightly oversized dinosaur.
Or, put another way, it’s like saying that it was mildly surprising to the Araujo team when their 2007 estate Cabernet Sauvignon was given a 90-92 rating in The Wine Advocate…
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