I am reading Steve Jobs' Biography and although I have only read the first 1/8 of the book I am very fascinated by the story. I don't think I would have particularly liked Jobs but there are some of his traits that have helped me to become the winemaker I am today. He stated that the most important aspect of being successful is intuition. It is good and necessary to have the capacity for rational thinking, but a person needs to go beyond rational thought processes to capture and create something great – and that requires great intuition.
This resonates with me so strongly because a good winemaker cannot just follow the books to make clean and correct wines – you also need a sixth sense. This ability is necessary to make quick and insightful decisions while in the middle of the mad rush of harvest; during 16-hour days with hundreds of tasks at hand. You have to follow your instincts and stay sensitive to the specific needs of each lot. There is no wine recipe that can give you guidance to capture a particular flavor or even a hunch that the decision you make will develop years later into the perfect wine character you like and want to feature. What I call “gut feeling” is intuition that is so crucial to either rescue a wine from mediocrity or, in the best scenario, make a wine that is very special and unique.
The 2011 harvest was a vintage where winemakers were tested to show their skills. Because of Hurricane Irene brushing by this area, lots of rain during the season, and also having a sunny and warm year (Warmer than 2001 and 2007), the grapes ripened early. Green flavors and acid levels dropped ahead of time but sugar accumulation lagged behind as a result. Winemakers certainly needed to be flexible and have good insight in making the right picking decisions and paying extra attention to every lot and fermentation.
Another interesting trait of Jobs that I believe is the key to turn around a difficult vintage or to stand against terrible odds or seemingly insurmountable tasks (e.g. after a hurricane), is the reality distortion field (RDF). Using a combination of charisma, bravado, hyperbole, and persistence, Jobs was regularly able to convince Apple employees that seemingly impossible tasks were, in fact, possible.
So in 2011, the wineries that were able to use the combination of intuition and RDF did very well. The wines that will surface first on the market and will give you a glimpse at the vintage are the summer wines; Rosé's followed by Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Chenin Blanc, stainless-steel-fermented Chardonnays, blended white wines and some ice wines. The reds will follow in 1 to 2 years.
These wines will tell you the story of how well each winemaker performed. You will be able to judge for yourself and hopefully you will enjoy them - maybe while reading Steve Jobs' biography. So sometimes I feel very much like Steve Jobs and I believe he would have made a very good winemaker. The only mistake he made is that he got into apples instead of grapes…or was that my mistake?