Monday, June 19, 2017

The Linoleum Project™--Philosophy First, Winemaking Second


The Linoleum Project™ originated as a spoof of Abe Schoener's The Scholium Project, and as a reaction to a particularly loathsome puff-piece about Abe in the New York Times Magazine written by Bruce Schoenfeld. I returned to The Linoleum Project™ in this piece, originally written in September 2014. We're still talking about natural wines in 2017, but rarely about Scholium Project or the New York Times (the original piece may have been the first example of FAKE NEWS). I hope this piece is funny the second time around. It wasn't the first time.

Harvest is in full swing here at Splooge Estate, and while our neighbors are bringing in their incredibly boring Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc—the so-called “workhorse” grapes (“workhouse” because their only worth is to get you plowed)—we’re harvesting more important varieties, varieties you haven’t heard of. The best and most obscure are earmarked for The Linoleum Project™. We thought we’d take a moment of your time to explain in a bit more detail the philosophy behind the wines of The Linoleum Project™. Unlike most wines produced, these are not wines aimed at pleasure. These are wines meant to express the ultimate meaninglessness of life, the charade of importance that is human existence—the very things that make you want to drink. Everyone pays lip service to a philosophy of winemaking, but they put the cart before the workhorse. At The Linoleum Project™ we put philosophy first, and winemaking a distant second. We believe in winemaking by philosophy. We are teachers first, winemakers second. We truly believe in the old saw that, “Those who can do, those who Kant philosophize.”

Perhaps the best way to understand our winemaking by philosophy is to understand how each individual wine is made, how philosophy and overthinking combine to make wines that reflect not only their terroir, but each person’s hopelessness in the face of a godless universe. Certainly one can enjoy wines that only express a sense of place, a minerally and precise Grand Cru Chablis, for example. But there is a price to be paid for living an unexamined life. Isn’t it far more rewarding and satisfying to murder an innocent oyster with a blunt knife and then wash it down with a crisp white wine that celebrates not only the oyster’s salinity, but your own feeling that life is worthless, nothing but a snotty slide down eternity’s esophagus? Of course. Welcome to our world.

2014 Gaglioppo
The vineyard that is the source of our Gaglioppo is in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. While many wineries have complained about the unfortunate earthquake that struck the region this year, at The Linoleum Project™ we celebrate it. In truth, our Gaglioppo perfectly reflects its tumultuous terroir. Put your nose in a glass of any vintage. What do you smell? Faults! You might be tempted to think that those faults are the result of poor winemaking. This reflects your usual simpleminded approach to wine, an approach that believes pleasure is wine’s chief goal. Don’t feel bad. Your limited intelligence is how you became one of our mailing list customers. In truth, it’s philosophy that defines our Gaglioppo.

When we reflect upon our own character, it’s our faults that plague us. As Kafka memorably put it, “Wir sind ein Haufen Scheisse.” (“We’re a pile of shit,” which considering his intestinal problems, is a loose translation.) So not only will our 2014 Gaglioppo reflect its origins in Calabria, it will also reflect man’s ultimate unworthiness. We are our faults, and our faults are us. We live our lives trying to embrace our faults. It’s this basic philosophy that informs the wines of The Linoleum Project™. If you love our wines, you must embrace faults. You cannot love yourself if you cannot love our faulty Gaglioppo. This is how wine can enrich your life—through following philosophy instead of cold, hard, unfeeling chemistry.

2014 Ebola Gialla
We very much like the look of our 2014 Ebola Gialla clusters. Ebola Gialla is a very rare variety, thought to be Ribolla Gialla crossed with a fruit bat. Over the past few vintages, our Ebola has done very poorly with the press. James Laube called it, “maybe the worst white wine I’ve ever had that wasn’t Grüner.” Robert Parker thought it “despicable, though it helped me lose some weight.” Jon Bonné says our Ebola is “maybe the finest white wine coming out of Napa Valley, though, in truth, I hate wine.” These quotes are exactly the point of our Ebola.

At The Linoleum Project™ we take a nihilistic approach to our Ebola. Nietzche is our guiding light, and it was his assertion that all values are baseless, that absolutely nothing can be communicated, that nothing is known. This is the precise basis for all scoring systems and wine reviews—indeed the 100 point scale is baseless, and wine descriptions communicate nothing. “Nothing is known” is pretty much the resumé for Neal Martin.  So it seems appropriate as a philosophy of winemaking as well.  We even take it a step further, utilizing the truth of existential nihilism (not just Nihilism Lite)—the certainty that life itself is meaningless. Then isn’t winemaking itself meaningless? Isn’t trying to assign meaning to wine futile and ignorant? Isn’t this apparent when you read wine blogs? Our Ebola reflects the words of Nietzche, “Nihilism is . . . not only the belief that everything deserves to perish; but one actually puts one’s shoulder to the plough; one destroys” Starting with your liver.

We encourage you to share a glass of our Ebola at your next meaningless meal with someone you don’t particularly care lives or dies. This is more than likely yourself.

2014 Tannat
Tannat is a variety that has gained some popularity in recent years, perhaps because, like life itself, it’s the same thing backwards or forwards. In France, Tannat is the primary grape in Madiran, and an important component of many wines from Cahors. In terms of philosophy, it may have been tempting to place Descartes before Cahors, or maybe mullah over how mad Iran is. But, fundamentally, at The Linoleum Project™ we hate Tannat. Which is why each vintage we seek it out. We don’t believe in working with varieties we actually enjoy. That would give us pleasure, and pleasure leads to complacency, a quality prevalent in winemaking today. No, we make our Tannat with a focus on anhedonia, and we think that makes it taste better because it is incapable of delivering taste.

In our view, too often we expect pleasure from wine. We reach for a bottle with an expectation of joy and sensual pleasure. Only to be routinely disappointed. We want you to know that our Tannat is made with the philosophy that life is better when you are unable to experience happiness, and that our wine is designed to make sure you do not. In this respect, our Tannat shares much with rating wines on a numerical scale, for isn’t that very scale about anhedonia? Can you consume a wine rated 89 and enjoy it knowing that somewhere someone richer than you, smarter than you, and better looking than you is drinking a wine rated 100? When you drink 89 point wine aren’t you denying yourself pleasure, illustrating your basic self-contempt, but, more importantly, not caring. Not caring because you cannot feel joy anyway? This is our Tannat in a nutshell.

Enjoy it alone, in the darkness of your soul, with a nice venison stew.

9 comments:

Randy Caparoso: said...

Thank you for giving new meaninglessness to my life (as a wine journalist), Ron. Knew I could count on you. R

Ziggy said...

Drinking meaningless wine also removes memory cells from the brain since I don't remember reading this article 3 years ago, (and I love drinking tannaT.

Charlie Olken said...

In this piece,you have finally captured the existential reality--no matter which wines we drink, we are all going to die anyhow.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Randy,
You're welcome. But you were doing a pretty good job of it yourself writing for SOMM Journal. Oh, snap!

Ziggy,
I'm nothing if not unmemorable. I didn't remember writing it either, but I do remember The Linoleum Project. I actually sort of like the tone of this piece. I imagined it as an Abe Schoener kind of winery newsletter. That's how my mind works.

Charlie,
Or for all we know we're all Wine Critics in Hell already.

Bob Rossi said...

This is fantastic! Thank you for republishing it, since I don't think I had yet discovered your blog 3 years ago. And now I'll have to see if I can find the NYT puff piece about Abe, which I think I read when it was published.
By the way, I love Tannat from Madiran.

Steve Savluk said...

I must say, I appreciate the Linoleum Project! But at Tannat you are missing something that Heisenberg put so eloquently put in his treaty on Uncertainty. Doubting and non-doubting...there is only the first if there is the second.

Steve Savluk said...

Sorry, treatise. Need to proof read more often.

Bob Henry said...

"Missing Link" here.

Why not offend even more folks by going back further in time -- say 2009?

(Caveat: for reasons unknown, The Journal is not allowing online readers to navigate to profile pages 2 and 3. And the original March 2009 published URL does not work. That's so unnatural for the paper.)

From WSJ [Wall Street Journal] magazine
(March 5, 2009, Page 24ff):

"Barrel Fever;
Dionysus was the Greek god of wine, ecstasy -- and madness.
Abe Schoener, philosophy professor-turned-vintner, knows something about that."

Link: http://archive.is/20140416053325/magazine.wsj.com/hunter/second-chapter/from-philosopher-to-vintner/

By Alice Feiring

[I will add this one small text excerpt that underscores Abe's photo:

"On my visit to his house in Napa, he pours some wine into his glass from one of the outsize laboratory decanters littering his kitchen table. It is his San Floriano del Collio, a pinot grigio. Now, pinot grigio is usually a white wine, but Schoener’s is the color of cherry juice. This is because he has fermented it on its red-hued skins for weeks, a red-wine technique."]

Aaron said...

Sadly this was posted before I started reading, but thank you for bringing it back around! Definitely enjoyed this, although I do also enjoy some of Abe's last couple of vintages. Had a hard time with it a few years ago (so, 4-5 vintages ago), but am enjoying some of his newer wines.

But yes, I imagine he'd actually appreciate this as well. At least I'd hope so. He's quite nice and interesting in person. If I should happen to see him in person again I'll have to ask if he's read this :)