Vintage

This is a PBS documentary about the 2012 harvest in Napa Valley. I like food shows. I like food events. I like making food stuff part of my vacation experience. I’m even starting to cook, if you count smoothies and soft-boiled eggs as cooking. My relationship with food, I think, is a healthy one. I think.

However, for the most part, I can’t stand The Food Network. Oh sure, I like DDD, but everything else is crap. Chefs and critics and contestants and judges just make a mockery of what it means to have a relationship with food. I would much rather hear from the makers. I’m talking about the winemakers, brewmasters, and coffee roaster types. The people further back in the food chain who are pulling stuff out of the ground and prepping food items before the supermarket or restaurant even gets them. Those are the food stories I want.

So Vintage was perfect for me. It follows three head winemakers during the 2012 harvest. All three are women. Their names are Kimberlee, Marisa, and Elizabeth and they seem to all know each other. They love their jobs and are really fired up about the 2012 harvest. Despite the drought that has been hanging over California for the years, it seems like there was a short respite in Napa Valley in 2012 because near-perfect weather resulted in a record amount of fruit being pulled off the vines.

You watch these three women interact with the growers, the pickers, and truck drivers. You see them picking, tasting grapes, and driving forklifts. You watch them in the office trying to schedule which tanks gets which grapes as they struggle with the unprecedented amount of fruit sitting in trucks lined up outside their plant waiting to unload their payload into the crushers. It’s fascinating stuff and I think it will help me become a better wine drinker.

When I taste a cab from Chimney Rock, I’ll remember Elizabeth waxing poetically about California wines. Any Markham wine will obviously bring back memories of Kimberlee walking around the vineyard with Ziploc freezer bags paper-clipped to her belt for efficient in field tasting. The next time I’m sucking down some red from Rutherford Hill, I’ll remember Marisa’s affecting speech at the end of the show about “wine as food, that you share with your family, and it’s important to me,” or something like that.

I struggle with tasting food. I like wine, but I’m clueless on how to describe it and discern it’s flavor. I love coffee, but I can’t pick out caramel notes or hints of lime. I’m a heavy user of the beer, but put two IPA’s next to each other and I’m not going to be able to tell you what’s different about them.

Who cares really? Well, I do, for some reason, and the fact that I can’t tell a malbec from a cabernet is a little disconcerting to me. Maybe it’s proof that I’m too bored and I’m just making up stuff to be disconcerted about. Shouldn’t I be more disconcerted about the fact that I can’t speak Spanish or that I don’t read anything but crime fiction any more. I have bigger fish to fry than the fact that I can’t tell an IPA from and Imperial IPA, right?

Or maybe this stuff does matter. Maybe we should be thinking more about the food we put in our bodies and the clothes we wear on our backs. Maybe there is nothing wrong with spending time on these basic human needs; making hobbies, so to speak, out of stuff you have to do anyway to live. What if – and this is a big what if – what if I were to forego playing golf every Saturday morning this summer and instead went to a coffee tasting class?

Put that in your cup and drink it.