By David White
Imagine if BMW's design chief admitted that Ford produces some of his favorite cars. Or if the CEO of Coca-Cola confessed that every now and then, he craves a Pepsi.
Pure fantasy, of course. But with wine, such admissions happen daily. And now, a website has launched -- WinemakersRecommend.com -- to share these insider picks with the world.
I've been a sucker for tips like these since I first fell in love with wine.
It was the fall of 2007, and I was out in Napa Valley with a few friends. We had visits lined up at a number of the area's top wineries - Heitz Cellars, Opus One, Robert Keenan Winery, and Failla, to name just a few - and at each spot, I asked the tasting room staff what they enjoyed drinking. I looked for many of those wines when I returned home.
As I dove deeper into the world of wine, I continued to ask those in the industry for suggestions. Sommeliers, retailers, and importers were eager to share tips, of course. But I was surprised that winemakers were equally excited to offer recommendations. After all, the bottles they pointed to were often in direct competition with their own.
Yet across California, Oregon, Argentina, South Africa, and every other region I visited, winemakers were happy to steer me to other people's wines. So when I launched my own website, I sought to collect these tips by regularly asking winemakers to list the wines open in their kitchen.
Thanks to these interviews, I learned about revolutionary producers like Arnot-Roberts, in Sonoma, and Channing Daughters, on Long Island, long before they gained critical acclaim for eschewing conventional varieties in pursuit of the esoteric.
Indeed, I've found that winemakers are the ones to ask about below-the-radar producers. For good reason, professional critics tend to focus on wines with mass appeal that are widely available. Winemakers, on the other hand, aren't evaluating wine for the general public. Since they're immersed in wine -- producing it, drinking it, and thinking about it, they offer a wholly unique perspective. And it's one that's just as interested in the new and exciting as it is the delicious.
On Winemakers Recommend, top Napa Valley winemakers share their personal wine recommendations in slick, easy-to-digest videos produced by Brett Lyman, a filmmaker, and Marcus Krupp, a self-described startup junkie.Thus far, the site has featured rock star winemakers like Aaron Pott, Helen Keplinger, and Steve Matthiasson, all of whom appeared in Food & Wine's 2012 list of five "Winemakers of the Year." Eventually, Lyman and Krupp hope to expand beyond Napa.
Next time you visit a winery, be sure to ask the tasting room staff -- or, better yet, the winemaker -- about their favorite wines. Until then, Winemakers Recommend is worth visiting.
David White is the founder and editor of Terroirist.com, which was named "Best Overall Wine Blog" at the 2013 Wine Blog Awards. His columns are housed at Palate Press: The Online Wine Magazine.