Here's what's on my mind.
Last year we saw the start of secular Natural Wine Weeks.
The first one was in SF 2009.
While I thought it was organized by the Dressner folk, I am now corrected and find out that the motivating force was by Ian Becker (bravo), and the seminar supported by LDM, thanks to the help of the lovely Shawn Mead.
There was another in the Spring in Los Angeles, mostly spurred on by Lou Amdur (Lou on Vine) and full disclosure--I was there for the wrap up panel.
This year the second edition of SFNWW was championed by a collective effort and taken up by restaurants and wine stores around the city. Some wines this week showcased are Arianna Occhipinti from Sicily, Laureano Serres from Spain, Arnot-Roberts and NPA (Kevin Kelley). There's Puzelat and even at RN74, they're pouring some interesting juice.
Most venues are featuring people who live and die by natural and living their principles. This is something worth celebrating. Passion is worth celebrating. Principles coupled with sensuality (meaning principles coupled with sound wine) are worth celebrating. It's worth ones liver for sure, especially, when the wines are not just ideological but delicious and give so much pleasure.
Yet the line up up at the restaurant A 16 gave me some pause.
Below is the blurb from the calendar of events.
... expect to find the regular by-the-glass list to lean heavily on Italian natural wines. That focus is complemented by Palmina (Monday, 8/23); Robert Sinskey (Tuesday, 8/24); Bonny Doon (Wednesday, 8/25); Unti Vineyards (Thursday, 8/26); Whetstone Wine Cellars (Friday, 8/27); Peay Vineyards (Saturday, 8/28); and Brown Estate (Sunday, 8/29). Each producer will be able to talk at length on the various natural, organic or biodynamic practices they employ, and what it means to work with these methods in California.
I was trying to figure out: did it mean they we're having natural Italiano's and if you want to see more conventional wines and compare the difference? Do they mean compliment or do they mean contrast? I'm actually not sure why some of those names on this list are included in a Natural Wine Week.
Here's where this is disturbing. The category of natural wine is a somewhat slippery slope except predicated by the tenets of nothing added nothing taken away, a touch of sulfur as needed if needed. Basic to the cause is no inoculations and please, no acidifications. There is a transparency in the wines that excite out of control affection for certain drinkers predisposed to the wine roller coaster.
If the week had been called 'Natural and Sustainable" well, what the hell. I could rock with the A16 list. At any other time, for any other wine promotion, sure. But here some 'conventional' winemakers included in this line up will be getting a free ride from a different association. No 100% commitment needed. In other words, why buy the cow when the milk is free?
Obviously I'm having a little fun with the analogy and I'm sure there was no intent to confuse here, but just some confusion. I imagine this comes from confusing organic or biodynamic and commitment to the soil as resulting in a classically natural wine. While all of the wines on the list might be good, I would guess not all of the wines on the list could claim that they don't inoculate or acidify or water back or....well...whatever. That is an essential difference between those who are natural and those who work more naturally. And while having a Natural Wine week where great and natty wines are poured all over town, getting people to drink them, it seems like not such a great idea to muddy the waters of perception unless there's a conversation around it. But most of the consumers won't know the questions to ask.
Never the less, it seems as if SF is filled with some terrific events and venues this week, including A16, Some will party like the 1970's. Check out the blog for the full run down.