Monday, September 15, 2014

The Linoleum Project™--Philosophy First, Winemaking Second

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.


The Sommeliere said...

Ron, when I got to this, "maybe mullah over how mad Iran is" I REALLY cracked up. But the heat is making me so loopy that I have been really cracking slowly...

Unknown said...

Ebola Gialla? Brilliance vinified......Nothing more to say!

Bob Henry said...

When I speed read your piece, I misread the first wine offering as the 2014 Gallipoli from the Carnage region of Napa Valley.

I guess the mind sees what it wants to see . . .

Does the Linoleum Project prove once again that some folks don't know shit from Shinola?

Charlie Olken said...

I was beginning to wonder if the Linoleum Project had gone out of business after last year's blunder with German Colombard. Ebola Gialla, however, may well put them over the top.

Thomas said...

Wonderfully done, Ron. Makes me proud to wear the hair shirt you sent me to celebrate my future deathday.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Marlene Darling!
I've missed you. Thanks for the cracking up. I hear it's been hot down in SoCal, but as a kid, I always remember it being dreadfully hot whenever I started school, so it's not out of the ordinary. Like you are.

Thanks. Just a bad pun.

Nice. Clever, and not a single link. Those links are holding you back--like Tiger Woods.

The Linoleum Project™ is thinking of making an orange wine from German Colombard blended with Mauve Hungarian. Should be tasty.

That wasn't a shirt, it was a toupee, but whatever...

Common taters,
I'm not sure what the hell this piece is about. In my head, it's sort of a reaction to the way some winemakers/wineries assign deep and mystical motivations and meanings to what is essentially a chemistry problem. Whether it's faux philosophy (sometimes assigned by professional philosophers--if there is such a thing) or fake spiritualism, it's annoying. It's grape juice converted to an alcoholic beverage by yeast, can we just appreciate it for what it is and not pretend it carries some profound meaning?

And what better vehicle than the elusive Linoleum Project™? It's just so much Splooge anyway.

Thomas said...

News flash: Hosemaster is not a romantic.

Rob R said...

Descartes before cahors is fabulous!

HalfFull said...

I'll leave the clever retorts and sympotic epigrams to others. Just want to thank you for the fun read.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey, a couple of new common taters! Thanks, Rob and Dywrite.

Rob R said...

Long time listener, first time...

Unknown said...

I was floored by this posting, frankly.
I have tasted some of the wines and can say they are certainly a "project" if you're trying to consume a glass...
I looked up the definition of "Linoleum" : A floor surfacing material composed of oxidized linseed oil, mixed with cork or wood flour, mineral filler and pigments and bonded to a jute backing."
Now I know why those wines taste the way the do!


simon.burnell said...

Ron, I had a bottle of the The Linoleum Project™ Armadillo Pet Nat last night. It was the most nihilistic wine I've ever had as the entire contents gushed out onto my handwoven sisal carpet. Despite waking up to an empty bottle, I had no trace of a hangover this morning - must be because it was so natural. Cheers!