Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lunch with Christophe Hedges

Christophe Hedges.
Part of a series on the Context of Wine, 
Inspired by an afternoon conversation with Christophe Hedges.

Last Friday I enjoyed lunch with Christophe Hedges and his lovely wife Maggie at their Red Mountain home. Christophe cooked while we talked about our favorite topic, wine. Christophe is responsible for Sales and Marketing for his family owned winery, Hedges Family Estate. A tall man, lean, with an introspective look, he struck me as friendly, focused, intelligent and a fervent individual, proud of his family heritage and his family winery.

A lover of authentic things, Christophe’s artistic nature is reflected not only by his designs for the Hedges labels, but by his passion for masonry work. He and his best friend, an Architect, designed and built his charming stone block home using high R-value recycled concrete blocks. The solid shutters on the south side of the house block out the summer sun, while the stone structure insulates the interior 2,000sf resulting in a monthly electric bill of only $50. It was obvious to me that the house was designed for family and friends to share food and wine. Christophe and Maggie greeted me warmly as we fell into the topic of wine. Their kitchen made for a comfortable setting.

Hedges 2010 House of Independent Producers Chardonnay - Delicious.
Starting with a bottle of Hedges 2010 HIP Chardonnay, we got to know each other. Over the next three hours we discussed a variety of topics including: architecture, travel, family and wine. Yes, his family winery is the largest family owned winery in Washington State. And to be open, Hedges is the only wine club my wife and I ever belonged to. But, the reason I contacted Christophe, and the reason he invited me to his home, was to discuss the 100 point rating system used to score and sell wine.

Christophe Hedges is the man behind the “Score Revolution” a movement he started to educate people about how wine is scored and sold. He is against the 100 point scale used to rate and sell wine and would like to see it abolished.

He asks the question, “How can you apply a number to any art form?”

Hedges 2009 Descendants Liégeois Dupont Syrah - Homage to his mothers family.
Lunch was simple and tasty, grilled beef, sliced tomatoes in a delicious sauce (family secret), bread and a bottle of Red Mountain 2009 Descendants Liégeois Dupont Syrah. Grown on a 15 acre vineyard, named Les Gosses, this wine is the product of low yield farming. The wine was a great companion to the grilled meat, and a wonderful example of Red Mountain Syrah and I'm a huge fan of Hedges Syrah.

I’ve been following Christophe’s efforts to promote the “Score Revolution” on the sidelines for a couple of years. Social media makes it easy to sift through the reactions and comments he’s generated. And there’s been a lot of “feedback” from the wine industry – much of it emotional and reactive. He is challenging an institutionalized method of scoring/rating/judging wine. A lot of people in the wine industry don’t like what he's saying. And let’s be honest, it’s much easier to sell a bottle or a brand if it has a desirable score or number. But is the number real and what does it mean if anything?

One of the most memorable questions I was asked while working in a tasting room (hand selling every bottle) was asked by a gentleman from China on a trade tour of Washington State. He asked me, “What is wine?” Those three simple words shook me. What did he mean? How should I answer? What was wine to me? Truly a huge question, what is wine?

And now I wonder too, who is rating wine and why are they giving wine a number?

These are questions I want to explore over the next few posts on my wine blog. And I want to communicate with you the impact Christophe Hedges made on me. Because of our lunch conversation, I better understand his message and I recognize in my approach to wine blogging, a compatible perspective on wine - context is everything.

A few years ago, I shared with Jane Pearson of Tapteil Vineyards, the question asked by the gentleman from China, her response was immediate, “Wine is food, wine is life.” Those are words I can live by.

Cheers