Spotlight on Unusual California White Wine: Tatomer Gruner Veltliner “Paragon” Edna Valley 2013
It’s easy not to see time. We are quick to embrace its evaporation, either in satiety or fear. Distraction. Each moment but a prediction of the next. But there is more in time than we usually observe. Its scale is both immense and minute and each nuance is as profoundly still as geological time. Geological time as impermanent as each nuance.
Love of wine comes from many places. It is pleasure, satiety, community, intellect, joy, spirit. Love allows us meaning. But, more than anything, wine is time. It is not terroir, place, site. It is nothing but the ascent to its own inevitable dissolution. Its purpose is to not be. Each nuanced moment of choice, external stimulus, and genetic potential, come together to offer a translation of the meaning of that time for a certain subject who consumes it. If we listen a great wine allows us to see time without the distraction of being in it.
Why does “unusual” matter? The repetition of the status quo does not provide us insight into our own delusions nor does it refract the appearance of our norm of truth. Arguably, California Chardonnay has mostly lost its relationship with time, finding itself working within or against a specific expectation of experience. It is always in relationship to that expectation. It may never prompt one to escape.
But with the unusual, the Trousseau Gris, old vine blends, or this Gruner Veltliner, the platform for our experience is less conditioned, which allows us to see just how conditioned our experience usually is.
Wines for Time
Graham Tatomer seems to embrace the need for unconditioning our expectations, focusing his eponymous label on Austrian varieties (Tatomer spent some time working at Weingut Knoll in that country). The wines are stylistically antithetical to typical California expectations: tense, high in acidity, long-ageing and prepared to present drinkers with something riskier than they may be used to. Their appreciation requires time. To think. To notice. To question. To observe. They arguably need a decade in the bottle.
I’m not sure anyone would associate the Edna Valley with ripping, age-worthy Gruner. But here it is. The vineyard is located only a couple miles from the Pacific, and sits on a west facing slope over marl, quartz and limestone soils. The vineyard is farmed “sustainably”.
Wine and Conditioned Existence
This is odd wine, but varietally true. White peach and nectarine aromatics become unripe guava and tangy peach on the palate. The wine is alive with acidity and boasts salinity and chalk on the mid-palate. The finish is somewhat vegetal with pea shoots and bitter green notes, though this is entirely pleasurable. This is well made wine that is counter-intuitive for Edna and California. Its culminating moment of non-existence helped remind me that each moment we think is true, each experience we think we understand, and each environment in which we live is but a single plane on an infinite prism.
“Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream;
Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.
So is all conditioned existence to be seen.”
Very Good to Very Good+
$23 at K&L
*Image from Tsai Ming-Liang’s film Journey to the West