Last week, we spent several days in and around San Francisco, including the wine country north of the city. I enjoy wine, but I don't spend as much time mulling it over as I do spirits. So, while I've never given much thought to the cultural differences between various wineries, the question was foisted on me when conversations tilted from wine to whiskey.
In Napa, we started off one morning sampling sparkling wines. It's the kind of place where busloads of tourists disgorge during the season, but the setting was great and we had nowhere to be, so we looped back around after initially passing by. Once we were seated and were making our way through the samples, a winery employee asked what we usually drink. When we replied "whiskey," she made a face. "Whiskey? That's weird. Who drinks whiskey? Is that like a Midwestern thing?" We were a bit frosted at the putdown, so we bought nothing.
Death's Door — smack — right on the counter. They weren't selling it; the stuff was there to fortify the staff. At that place, we did buy the wines, including a few bottles of pinot meunier, a variety better known for blending, but its rich, lush, and almost smoky notes may appeal to confirmed whiskey drinkers. Last year I didn't know it existed; this year, I hope to drink my weight in it.
The first winery was big, corporate, a name you'd probably recognize. The second was much smaller, lesser known, most of the grapes were grown right there at the vineyard, and the staff just oozed friendliness. Turns out that regardless of whether they're selling whiskey, wine, bacon, or grits, my sympathies are almost always with smaller producers who make what they sell.
Cheers to the artisans of this world.