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Traditionalists in the New World

Astronaut

Can we make a confession? All of us at Hedges have at one time or another compared our wines to our European counterparts, to their land, their wine. We've all been guilty of saying something like, "If you blind taste our Red Mountain syrah, you could easily think northern Rhône."

What's old is new again, right? The hip movements in our world such as Biodynamics, organics, and even natural wine eschew modernity and tap back into the techniques of our European ancestors. The collective American palate is changing. No longer do we all want the biggest, boldest cabernet on the shelf. We're starting to understand the beauty of subtlety and finesse, which are old world trademarks.

For this reason, it's ever more popular for domestic wineries to claim such bold statements as ours above. If you happen upon any salesman/woman pitching their domestic juice, there's a good chance they're telling a potential buyer, "We make Burgundian-style pinot," or "we make Bordeaux in the new world."

It was freeing and refreshing to read Randall Grahm's related article, My Journey to Terroir. Take the time to absorb his powerful writing; he is a legend in our business.

We share similar conclusions. Some of us at Hedges learned the hard way when we started selling Red Mountain wines in Europe. Try telling a room full of British or Danish wine enthusiasts that you make a red blend reminiscent of Pomerol. You'll never do it again. Because guess what... they are not far from the real thing. Why would they want your attempt at a copycat Bordeaux?

And what a fine lesson to learn. We at Hedges are traditionalists, yes, like many in the old world. We believe (as does Randall Grahm) that by limiting the "crafting" of wine, by using oak barrels conservatively, by farming Biodynamically, by picking early and embracing some sense of minimalism, one can capture more accurately the specific identity of their vineyards. But we are traditionalists exploring new ground. We have no interest in imitation.

Name a newer growing region than the Pacific Northwest. Maybe China. Where else? The Pacific Northwest is one of the last unexplored frontiers on earth. That's why a room of British or Danish wine enthusiasts want to drink American wine. They want to see what else is out there. Because as lovely and awe-inspiring as the fine wines of Europe are, we and our vineyards have something unique to say. What's most exciting about Washington State right now is we're still in our infancy, still stumbling along trying to find the most expressive varietals, the most exciting plots of land. We're on the starship Enterprise boldly going where no one has gone before.

Climb aboard.

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