This week, the Wine Enthusiast Podcast offers a spring tasting of stories, from a conversation with a tattoo-artist-turned-vintner Scott Campbell to moms-to-be talking about tasting and working the wine beat while pregnant.
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Read a full transcript of “A Spring Tasting”:
Marina Vataj: From Wine Enthusiast Magazine, this is the Wine Enthusiast Podcast. I’m Digital Content Director Marina Vataj.
Coming up… A Spring Tasting. We’ll bring you a medley of stories from the world of wine and beyond.
We’ll meet the tattoo artist who’s ‘making his mark’… as a vintner:
Scott Campbell: The ceremony of winemaking and the intent that goes into it is enormously romantic. I love it!
MV: We’ll hear what it’s like to work the wine beat… when you’re a mom-to-be.
Carrie Dykes: I’ve always had a pretty good sense of smell. But during this time it was out of control, it was insane, it was like a superpower.
MV: And if you fancy a cocktail made with shrubs or bitters, we’ll meet some of the artisans who handcraft these must-have ingredients.
Marianne Courville: It’s a joyful place, and we hope that comes out in the product in some magical way.
MV: It’s coming up on the Wine Enthusiast Podcast.
Spring. It’s the season of new beginnings. A time of rebirth, rejuvenation, and renewal. So, as the flowers burst into bloom and the birds feather their nests, today we present what we’re calling “a spring tasting” of stories.
We’ll begin… in the world of art. A very particular kind of art: Tattoos.
Tattoo artist Scott Campbell has literally made his mark on the world, and on countless celebrities – including Johnny Depp, Jennifer Aniston, and Sting.
Now Scott’s trying to make a new mark, on the world of wine. He’s partnered with winemaker Clay Brock on “Saved,” a line of California wines.
Wine Enthusiast Contributing Editor Layla Schlack spoke with Scott Campbell, who described what makes him tick as an artist.
Scott Campbell: About 20 years ago, I started tattooing and gained a bit of momentum through that. Worked kinda [sic] all over the place and then moved to New York, started tattooing there and got very involved with the kind of art and fashion community there.
About, I guess, in 2007 I started doing more fine art work and branching out and doing different projects. Yeah, now it’s kind of all over the place, but I put the word “artist” on my tax returns. So, I guess everything kind of has something to do with that.
Layla Schlack: You have this kind of vocabulary of symbols and superstitious symbols and alchemy symbols and things like that. Has that always been a thread in your work from your earliest days tattooing?
SC: My art education is through tattooing and through the interaction with people that tattooing provides. Basically, people come to get tattooed and we have to figure out what phrase or image or symbol kind of summarizes what they’re trying to communicate.
I’ve seen people of all different religions and all different walks of life come in and really kind of come up with an image and give it this power and this reverence that is so important to them that they need it to be a part of their physical being.
LS: So, there’s an interesting parallel here to wine that I’m seeing, which is wine is also kind of the sum of its parts. It’s a combination of the terroir and the grapes and the vineyards methods and the wine making methods and the age and all of this. It comes together into this one bottle that again is held in a lot of reverence. It’s something we spend a lot of time and energy thinking about and trying and seeking out. Do you think that might be part of what drew you to wine?
SC: Definitely. I think the ceremony of wine making and the intent that goes into it is enormously romantic. Like, I love it. I love the natural element and then you have man’s intervention as well. I like that it’s not like something created in a laboratory where it’s totally deliberate and all factors are controlled. Nature has a huge hand in what the final result is, and I think just taking what nature creates and what the weather and that soil and everything makes as far as the grape. Then treating it with that reverence and carrying it over… There’s something about the final product having all that intention and ceremony steeped into it that makes something really special.
I’ve always loved and kind of fantasized about an opportunity where I can have a project that has as much freedom as this. It’s funny I used to think about fragrances. I’m like: it would be fun to design a fragrance because you take this intangible thing and you can give it any personality you want or kind of take this abstract cue and just react to it. The wine experience has been a similar thing where I just take the experience of drinking this wine and the personality and yeah – just kind of really just react to it however my intuition says.
LS: Clay Brock is your head of wine making. How big a role did he play in your getting into wine the way you have?
SC: He was the entry point. He was that guy who I saw and kind of listened and kind of first walked me through everything and taught me. He was the one that made me want to get involved. In meeting Clay and kind of seeing his passion, I got excited about the idea of like treating this thing with the same reverence that he treats it and doing my part, which is kind of interpreting stories and assigning names and symbols to them. So, it was definitely like his passion was what pulled me in.
LS: So, you guys do your saved red blend and magic maker rosé, which you’ve described as “rosé for tough guys.” Do you think there are barriers introducing wine period and rosé’s specifically to “tough guys” and how’s it going over with them?
SC: I spent 20 years in tattoo shops with the whole spectrum of scumbags, and you know I was fat nerd for my whole childhood and now I have tattoos and motorcycles because I’m trying to sweep that fat nerd under the rug, and wanted to get girls and not get beat up.
The concept of tough guys is very demystified in my eyes. I think there is the concept of toughness and strength … I like to think that we’re kind of evolving beyond that what it has been. I think the notion of being stoic and strong is kind of like nobody cares anymore because we all kind of understand that being able to love things and communicate love for things without hesitation or fear, like that’s real strength.
If you can fall in love without being afraid, if you really can love something without controlling it or needing to own it, but really appreciate it like that’s so powerful. In moments when you see someone who has that capability that’s when you realize that is strength.
I like to do think people are evolving to the point where sensitivity and sophistication can be interpreted as strength not just your ability to beat up the fat kid.
LS: Rosé was kind of your idea right? I mean Clay had been making Pinot Noir. What was for you? What was the push behind rosé? Why did you want to make it so badly?
SC: Because Jay-Z drinks rosé. I totally remember and I don’t know – the Constellation people are gonna [sic] hate me for saying this – but when I first met with them they were really personal.
They were like, “We need a red. Like people drink reds.” I was like, “Yeah, but rosé.” They were like, “Yeah, but the numbers, the market research, everything shows that,” I was like, “I don’t care. Jay-Z drinks rosé. That’s all I need to know. If he drinks rosé then rosé is awesome.”
LS: So, do you get to have lots of “I told you so” moments now that rosé has become as huge as it has?
SC: Totally! And I cherish every one of them. I don’t let them out of it for a minute. Any time I pitch an idea and they like roll their eyes, or kind of pause, I’m like, “rosé, right? Have you been Whole Foods lately? Like I told you so.”
Back in March, we presented a series we called “Goddesses of the Grape.” In two back-to-back episodes, we showcased what life is like for women in the wine industry.
But what is life like when you’re a pregnant woman in an industry that is defined by alcohol?
Wine Enthusiast Contributing Editor Christina Pickard spoke with three women who know first-hand.
Carrie Dykes: I’m Carrie Dykes, tasting coordinator at Wine Enthusiast.
Emma Symington: I’m Emma Symington. I’m a master of wine. I live in the UK, where I work for Wine Australia and I am 38 weeks today. So, yeah getting close now.
Chantal Martineau: My name is Chantal Martineau and I’m a wine and spirits and food and travel writer. I am 23 weeks tomorrow.
Christina Pickard: Hi, I’m Christina Pickard, contributing editor at Wine Enthusiast. So, as we record I’m 35 weeks as of yesterday.
So, the question I get from people all the time when I tell them I’m pregnant and I work in the wine industry is how do you do your job? So, I think particularly with the strict taboo surrounding pregnancy and alcohol it’s hard for many people to fathom working with alcohol and being pregnant.
CD: People I think just automatically think that we just drink wine all day when in reality we spit. So, that was one thing that I constantly had to remind people. At the time, when I was pregnant I was working for a small importer and during our kind of like tasting meetings to see what we want to keep in the portfolio I sat down after I had announced that I was pregnant and they didn’t give me any glasses. I was like, “Hey guys I can still taste. I’m gonna [sic] spit it out. It’s fine.”
ES: I think sometimes you just have to put people right and sort of get them … I think when you work in the wine industry people think you kind of swan around all day toasting wine and chatting to wine makers. Sadly, certainly for me, my life is not quite like that. I am in an office most of the day and it’s not that often that actually a bottle of wine gets opened. So, it’s not really too much of a problem being pregnant in that situation at all. Having said that, obviously in the wine industry I think we are invited to lots of lunches and dinners and so on. It can be hard, then certainly being pregnant and having to say, “oh no I don’t want any wine” or just having a little sip while almost everyone else is enjoying everything around you. It can be quite lonely at times.
CM: I just got invited on a press trip to Japan actually to visit Whiskey distilleries and it’s not like I was asked how I do that. It was just that as soon as I said I was pregnant the invitation was not quite rescinded, but it was just sort of like hmm seems like that will be really hard for you. I guess I just remind people that you don’t really have to be drinking to be in this business.
CP: What about your taste buds? Have they changed when you have been tasting wine? So, did you have any strong aversions to flavor and aroma profiles within the wine? Did those correlate with food and have they changed as the pregnancy progressed?
CD: I’ve always had a pretty good sense of smell, but during this time it was out of control. That’s pretty much how I knew I was pregnant because my sense of smell was insane. It was like a super power. Aversions were also stronger unfortunately. So, I don’t really like anise in general and so bigger red wines have a lot of anise notes where I just couldn’t even be in the same room as it.
ES: I think in terms of tasting wine I certainly noticed I was picking up much more of the kind of lifted floral, those kinds of flavors, but I certainly haven’t had a big change. Like sometimes you hear of people having huge, huge changes and not being able to drink something or not being able to eat something because they can’t taste it anymore properly, but I haven’t had that for better or worse.
CM: My sense of smell is like insane. So, I’ve always even when I’m not pregnant relied heavily on my nose to taste, and now I’m like a wolf, you know? I can smell something as soon as a bottle is opened.
CP: What about were there things you really craved both characters in wine and in food as well that you were like oh give me more that?
CD: Wine in general I kind of liked the idea. I miss the idea of having a glass of wine at certain times, but the thing that I craved drink wise was beer, which is kind of weird because at the time I wasn’t really big into beer at all. That was new for me and it’s held on too. I’ve become kind of a big beer drinker now.
CM: Interestingly, I don’t really drink a ton of beer normally, but both pregnancies I craved beer. I don’t crave wine. I don’t really want a glass of wine at all, but I do like a glass of beer, which I think makes sense. It’s like bread in a glass.
CP: On that note, have you had any alcohol substitute drinks at the end of long day if you feel like a glass of wine, is there something that you substitute or if you’re out for dinner what do you usually have? What kind of satisfies the craving?
CD: You know, I was pregnant during the whole summer. So, my big go to non-alcoholic drink was lemonade and I drank so much of it that I’m so surprised I didn’t get gestational diabetes.
CM: I had I think this apple cider vinegar kick started when I was out and had a mocktail and it was shrubs based, which is amazing. They had kind of I guess it was just an apple shrub and it was so tasty. I came home and right away made cranberry shrubs.
CP: And shrubs are having a moment now, too. I feel like you can get really cool artisanal shrubs.
What about cultural differences? I know you’re traveling all over the world to wine and spirits producing regions, all over. So, have you had any sort of culture clashes in those tastings and visits over the years?
CM: In Alsace, I remember one lunch at a wine makers house and he pulls out some bottle that was … You know, I was tasting the whole trip, spitting, and nobody knew I was pregnant I should say. Nobody on the trip knew. So, this guy pulls out a bottle that’s like very special to him. I remember only the year on it. It was like a 1957 something, but he pours this with great pride for everyone sitting at this lunch table and everyone else is drinking it and I tasted it and I had a couple sips and that was it. By the end of the meal, my glass is still like more than half full and he starts questioning me about it in French, and I was the only one who spoke French.
So, I told him, you know no one hears, but I’m pregnant, and he starts yelling at me like, “Have you become such a puritanical American. How dare you not drink because you’re pregnant. We all drink throughout our pregnancies.” So, it was almost like the flip side of judgment.
CP: Yeah, sort of the other side of what you would experience here where you might be judged by taking just a sip. On the other side he was saying how dare you not drink.
Marina Vataj: Are you a mom, or mom-to-be, who works in the world of wine? What was your experience when you were expecting? We want to hear your story. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And to hear more stories from and about women in the wine industry, check out the “Goddesses of the Grape” episodes of our podcast. You can find them on our website: winemag.com/podcast.
You heard Christina Pickard and Chantal Martineau talk about artisanal shrubs… After the break, we’ll take you on a tour of Hudson Standard: one of the top makers of these vinegar-based infusions.
Emily Woerthman: With our shrubs and bitters, we’re trying to showcase the bounty of the Hudson Valley, we’re trying to really just utilize a lot of the plants, and the amazing fruits and herbs that grow locally.
It’s coming up on the Wine Enthusiast Podcast.
Marina Vataj: Welcome back to the Wine Enthusiast Podcast. I’m Marina Vataj.
It used to be that if you asked most bartenders about bitters, they’d say the same thing: ‘I’d sooner pay off my mortgage than make my way through a bottle.
Well… times have changed.
Like a lot of other traditional crafts, tincturing and medicinal cordials have gained unprecedented popularity in recent years, and some top-notch artisans have gotten into the game:
Like Hudson Standard: a small-batch bitters and shrub maker in New York’s Hudson Valley. We recently got a tour of the operation, led by the company’s founder, her partners, and their canine mascot.
Marianne Courville: Welcome, to the Hudson Standard. My name is Marianna Courville and I’m the founder.
Emily Woerthman: My name is Emily Woerthman and I am head shrub dealer.
Marcel Reid-Jaques: My name is Marcel Reid-Jaques and I’m being trained to do most of the production here.
MC: Seven or so years ago friend of mine showed up at my store. I own a little store with my husband, a wine shop in Hudson, New York. A friend stopped in who was a cocktail fanatic and newspaper man and he said, “Listen, I’m living on the West Coast and bitters are big out there and we need to make an East Coast version of bitters. I already know we should call it the Hudson Standard.”
It took me about two years to finally realize that he had a great idea, but it was only after I read about shrubs that all of a sudden it clicked. I said, “Okay, Hudson Valley makes shrubs, Hudson Valley makes bitters. This is a cool thing. Let’s do it.”
We launched in 2013 at the Hudson, the Basilica Farm and Flea. I remember it was freezing cold. I showed up. I shared a table. I couldn’t even afford my own table so I split a table with someone. Showed up, had a 100 bottles of pear honey ginger shrub and maybe 50 bottles of spruce shoot bitters and a couple of bottles of a new flavor, which is now probably are most signature flavor in bitters: our ginger bitters. I was starting to play with the ginger.
It was great. I sold out of everything within the first three hours that I brought, which was not so good for a two day event, but I was there.
EW: With our shrubs and bitters, we really try to demonstrate and sort of showcase the bounty of Hudson Valley. We’re trying to really just utilize a lot of the plants and the amazing fruits and herbs that grow locally. We’ve seen a lot of other shrub companies work with pineapple, and mango, which is amazing. That’s wonderful, but we really do believe we have incredible farming practices and real incredible farmers and products around this area, food products. With our shrubs and our bitters we try to incorporate those Hudson Valley fruits and botanicals such as peach lavender. We’re not working with pineapple. We’re working with peaches and apples and raspberries.
When we can and when we know of a plentiful and available source we will try to forage it. That is one of my favorite aspects of the job.
MC: We have one flavor called, Three Pines, which Emily climbs to the top of the highest mountain in the Catskills to gather the balsam fir that’s needed for that recipe. So, she’s a mountain woman, and that comes in very handy when you’re not just making the finish product, but actually harvesting and growing as well.
MRJ: One of my favorite things about working here is combination of the type of ingredients we’re using, which are all locally sourced or locally inspired ingredients, and the fact that we’re preserving them while making them into a delicious product that you can drink. Not only does the entire process smell amazing, but you’re also taking all of these local foods and you’re preserving them in actually a way that is quite low energy. They don’t have to be refrigerated, they last for what up to 10 years maybe? You can make your own soft drinks at home with them. You can mix them into your own cocktails. You can use them for cooking, and I think the way they approach creating the flavors is really amazing.
It’s either using sort of classic flavors like strawberry and rhubarb and peach and lavender. Also taking flavors that people don’t normally attribute to the Hudson Valley like the spruce and the white pine and the balsam fir, which we’re surrounded by constantly, but we don’t always think about as an actual edible ingredient and something that we can turn into a soft drink.
MC: We like the fact that the shrub are a healthy alternative to commercial soda or just sugary mixers things like that.
EW: It makes us more incline to also hydrate. I love water. Water is wonderful, but when it has a little extra something delicious and tangy and interesting I find myself like, “Oh I’m gonna make myself a shrub” more so than, “Oh I’ve got to remember to drink water.” It becomes a ritual much like coffee or something like that, like oh.
MC: I mean shrubs origin came from farm hands that would add vinegar to water partially to make it safe for drinking because this is going back into a time when water wasn’t quite so safe, but also then flavoring that to make it easy on the palette, but really it was because it was thirst quenching. That vinegar is definitely has a long history of being seen as something that can quench thirst and help hydrate the body.
I will say. I just want to throw in there that my favorite way to drink shrubs is every morning I have a glass that I’ve just put in … I actually put it in a glass container the night before, make it nice and cold in my fridge so it’s just shrub and water and that’s it, not carbonated. It’s not a soda and it’s like my version of Vitamin Water, which is just so good. I drink it every morning
I’m going to point over to our kettle, which is a 15 galloon kettle for brewing beer that is the perfect … So, that’s where the shrub comes out of and she’s gotta built in thermometer, which it makes it super convenient for us because we do gently heat the shrub up to 180 degrees so that we can then bottle it so that it is shelf stable.
Bitters, bitters are very different. We have a closet, dark closet, where we keep all of our tinctures and when it’s time to make a recipe, right now we have four recipes although we are actually playing around with doing three new ones working specifically with other producers in our area like co-producing bitters with some of their products. The four bitters that we make, we pull the tinctures out when it’s time, and then usually I do this on the quiet weekends, I’ll make the tea to go with it, but this is just want to show you.
So, this is a glass carboy and this is a new batch of Catskill Masala Bitters, which is our most aromatic bitters. Really amazing. We won a Good Food Award for it last year, which was exciting, and you can see that there’s a lot of weird, gooey kind of sediment. So, we will be racking that. We do it just the very old fashion way of just sort of-
EW: Siphoning, essentially.
MC: Emily is the queen of siphoning. She’s got that down.
EW: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
All of this is just so hands done, like the shrubs. We pour the shrubs into 32 ounce Pyrexes and use funnels to fill up all of our bottles and with this we use a little pitchers and tiny, tiny little funnels and funnel it into a two ounce bottle. So, it’s all very labor intensive.
One of the most satisfying things for me is packing and shipping and knowing that I’m like wrapping up these, swaddling these little bottles that have had so much effort put into them and shipping them to all corners of the country.
MC: It’s a joyful place and we hope that comes out in the product in some magical way, but we really do love what we do. It’s just such a pleasure to come and make stuff that you really care about with people that you care about.
Marina Vataj: Now that you’ve heard all about bitters and shrubs, how about trying them out for yourself?
That’s it for today’s Wine Enthusiast Podcast.
We heard from Contributing Editors Layla Schlack and Christina Pickard.
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I’m Marina Vataj. See you next time!