Technology in a sip. Wine science may not be in the forefront of most tasters' minds. But wine enthusiasts do want better quality wines, at a better value, with easier access. And more importantly, we want less stress and waste and kinder stewardship of the environment. A bit of wine science can remedy this.
The ASEV, American Society for Enology and Viticulture, is for the progress—the sciences—of winemaking and grape growing. Its membership includes a world wide collective of viticulturists and winemakers. You'll find a wide arc in the industry; from top global wine researchers, to academic leaders, to students. (ASEV link.)
Why does a scientific conference matter to us tasters? And how does it translate into better wine in our glass at dinner? Because behind every great concept, there is usually a handful of people, or a whole industry of influencers. This can be a mix of designers, scientists, doctors, or inventors. The ones with the specialized knowledge who made your car more aerodynamic. Or your snowboard lighter, stronger, and faster. We consumers reap the benefits of their knowledge.
I enjoyed covering the ASEV in collaboration with Dunbar Productions (link to DP.) The Dunbar group produces 100 Mile Meals, among other media, and features local food and lifestyles (link 100 MM.)
The Monterey County Wine Region had a chance to shine at the ASEV. Kim Stemler, Executive Director of the MCVGA, (link) started the morning off with highlights of the region. Then after a day of science, it was time for the tasting! She hosted the evening's Monterey County Regional Wine Reception. And what's exciting about hosting the ASEV in Monterey? Kim shared that people who like wine are creative, smart, fun, and like to have a good time! And who wouldn't want to be around people like that?
What sets Monterey County wines apart from other regions? Kim explained that at the floor of the Monterey Bay lies the Blue Grand Canyon which is 60 miles long and 2 miles deep.The cold waters of the deep canyon influence the region's weather, providing special ecosystems for growing wine grapes, one that you won't find anywhere else in the states.
Fog keeps the county cool in the morning. The coast stays cool and is ideal for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and other warmer weather grapes thrive inland as the valley heats up in the afternoon. Then, afternoon winds push the cool air from the ocean's canyon down the valley at winds up to 20-30 mph. This is the perfect cool-down, preventing the grapes from overheating or over ripening.
Monterey has great golf, dining, shopping and lodging. It's known for being a vacation destination as well as a desirable destination for wine. The conference was hosted at the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Conference Center (link) just steps from the Monterey Bay harbor.
It's always interesting chatting with people in the industry, and seeing people at different events. Nicola Hall is a staff scientist at Scott Laboratories, and to her fame, former President of the ASEV. I've had the chance to hear Nicola speak before at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento. Articulate, fun, approachable, and dang smart! When I asked her what challenges the wine industry faces, she brought up climate change, water issues, and lack of labor. The upswing is the enthusiasm and bold outlook of the young upcoming people in the industry. “They think outside the box. They're not locked into the standard 750 ml bottle.” Nicola shared how they still honor the traditions of their family and established wineries, but often come up with their own line of wines. Something experimental, fun, and made in smaller batches.
David Goldfarb is the winegrower for Clos de la Tech. Their vineyards are perched on top of Skyline Boulevard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. His goal at the ASEV was to get there, be caffeinated, and download—learn—as much info as he could from leaders around the world who share their knowledge.
He shared that the ASEV is not about marketing. It's not romantic. But it's true. Myths that are echoed to consumers and in the industry are busted. He pointed out many of the technological advancements in wine show that the old-timers were right. He made me realize that history and advancements can be good partners.
While Kristen Barnhisel was studying Italian Literature as an undergraduate at UCSD, she traveled a year abroad. It was in that time Kristen discovered, “Wine is a conduit to conversation.” That conversation has continued for Kristen. She's now the Second Vice President of the ASEV and winemaker for J. Lohr's white wines here in the Bay Area. She's been a member of the ASEV for 20 years, and has worked at Jordan, Columbia Crest, Handley Cellars, and Inglenook to name a few. Simply put, she knows wine!
With all of that experience, Kristen said, “If you want to do something very creative, you have to understand the technical—the science—to understand it. Each work of science seems to be finite, but is only a chapter.” That's the basis. Experiment, keep learning, and push the envelope.
Kristen pointed out that the ASEV is active in supporting the next generations in the global wine industry. They provide scholarships and networking opportunities. Student Flash Talks give students the chance to share their research in the field. Early Career Members, or those in their first seven years in the wine biz, gather for workshops, mentor-ships, and networking.
As a catalyst for sharing ideas, the ASEV offers sessions on cutting edge wine knowledge.
Winemakers and growers want to know the influence of berry ripeness on grapes.
For example, if you harvest Pinot Noir grapes later in the season, you'll get less tannins and more spice on the palate. If you harvest earlier, expect a wine with more flavors of strawberry and more tannins. Understanding applications can help avoid costly time consuming mistakes and improve wine quality.
This is good news for us tasters.
At the end of the day, the knowledge from generations past combined
with new advances in wine...taste wonderful!
So here's to your next tasty glass of science,
For a look at another event that's just as tasty, but less technical
see pics of the Amador 4 Fires Festival...
Join me at California Wine