Celebrating America's Diversity

The American way of life encourages innovation and risk-taking, and the way our winemakers approach their art is a perfect example.

All Americans have dreams of better lives for ourselves and our families. My dream may be as different from yours as the configuration of one snowflake is from another, but together we create a vision, the proverbial American Dream, which is as seamless and graceful a merger as snow itself.

It's obvious to us but is a complete puzzle to other cultures on this planet: America's strength is in its diversity. We embrace different cultures. We encourage our citizens to cherish their ethnic traditions. We allow them to voice their political dissent. I can understand how frightening our openness—frankly, our chaos of ideas—is to members of other, totalitarian, one-dimensional cultures.

Our vigorous tolerance of the other guy's ideas—when combined with the rich rewards of capitalist success and the intricate safety net for those who are not successful—makes us a nation of risk-takers. In light of current events, and the genuine heroism we've witnessed, I won't make heroes of winemakers in America, but I will gladly offer them as examples. They are risk takers. They dare to be different. They experiment with new techniques and new varieties. They dare to plant where no one ever planted before. Sometimes they fail, but other times they succeed gloriously. In this issue, we profile some Oregon winemakers who are experimenting with Tempranillo and Malbec. Sangiovese, Nebbiolo…the list of grapes with which our winemakers have challenged themselves is long. Twelve years ago on this page I wrote about the pathetic state of Pinot Noir in America. One Pinot was more abysmal than the next. Today, after experimentation and risk, the intense flavors produced from the Pinot Noir grape planted in America are as dazzling as some of the best of Burgundy, and oftentimes even more so.

Pluralism, democracy, capitalism—this is a recipe for greatness. And if a great Pinot Noir is not the most shining or important example, I still raise a glass in salute.

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In this issue, we focus on two libations that, together, frame a great evening of conviviality. The magic of Champagne lies in its peerless ability to jump-start laughter and good conversation. (On the other hand, many winemakers make the case that Champagne pairs very well with fine food, and they won't get an argument from me.) Rich, sweet, incomparable Port is best enjoyed at meal's end when a more reflective mood sometimes takes over.

This month, Roger Voss takes us inside some relatively small Champagne houses in France, where studious attention to detail and tradition helps keep these great wines in the family despite the vast consolidation among Champagne producers over the past decade or more. In addition, Champagne expert Ed McCarthy shatters the myth that Champagnes, especially quality Champagnes, should be drunk when they're young. The truth is, many of these great wines are eminently cellar-worthy.

There is probably no wine more subject to tradition than Port. As you know, vintage years are declared, and then many wines are blended to create these vintage Ports. But often overlooked are the excellent single-quinta Ports, which are produced from a single estate or vineyard. Alexis Bespaloff provides an introduction to these wines. Completing the story is a report on a vertical tasting of Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas, which shows just how good these single-quinta wines can be.

If wine enthusiasts share one dream, it probably involves access to the finest, rarest vintages of the world's greatest wines. Imagine sitting in a plush chair in one of the world's most luxurious hotels, snapping your fingers and having the likes of Haut-Brion, Lafite and Figeac brought to you. We may not be able to make that dream come true, but we can offer the next best thing: In this issue, Irvina Lew gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse of eight of the world's finest hotel wine cellars, where impossible-to-obtain bottlings are commonplace.

Different though our various dreams have been in the past or will be in the future, I think we all share one American dream as we celebrate this holiday season: peace and security for all.


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