I have a Master of Fine Arts degree and have worked as a painter and printmaker for most of my life, so when I encountered wine on our honeymoon in the south of France in 1996, I discovered a living, breathing, changing thing that has some of the same mystique as Art. As an artist, I begin with a clean canvas. I put something on the surface and then decide what is needed next. The first and second “somethings” must work together and to some degree dictate what will work next. Everything you add must go with everything that went before and restricts what can follow. Your choices become more restrictive.
I understand and respect the science that can be used in winemaking; however, I am an artist and choose to trust my instincts. When drinking wine I respond to the specific smells and tastes; however, when I am blending I respond to what is and what becomes as different wines are blended. I don’t think in terms of specific smells and tastes. I don’t think about cherry, blackberry, currant, leather, etc. However, I do think about the nose, the beginning, the middle, and the finish. Does the nose promise what is to come? Does the beginning and the middle evolve in all parts of the mouth and does the finish go on forever: all in perfect harmony and balance? If not, then as an artist, I want to know what to add or to remove to achieve the finished results. The wine must not only be balanced, but it must be complete and go well with food.
My winemaking style is a matter of attitude about choices. I choose to harvest late, to cold soak the red skins in their own juice, to allow the wild and feral yeasts to start fermentation before adding yeast, to punch down the skins rather than pump over the juice, and then to keep soaking the skins in their own wine after fermentation is over. I choose to not fine or filter the reds, and I choose to minimally handle our reds. Our East Coast climate is more like the south of France than California, so I choose an old world attitude about winemaking.
As with Art, patience, focus, and dedication are mandatory, never accepting mediocrity. I do not have a degree in enology and therefore I am not encumbered with knowledge about what I should not do. As the owner/winemaker along with Amy I can take chances and never get fired, no matter how hard I try.
– Michael Helton, Hanover Park Wines