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Viticulture,Wine,Winemaker

Winemaking as a Viticultural Experience ~ Dan Kleck

[This image of Dan has been borrowed from the Donati Family Vineyard Website.]

Dan Kleck is a wine maker that I met through Donati Family Vineyard.

Dan his own brand ~ Silverstone Wines, and is also an artist, which gives you another quick snapshot into the world of this talented wine maker.

I’ve also just learned that there’s  a whole lot more to this man than meets the eye. His appreciation for the process of growing grapes and connecting back to the land is very deep… perhaps deeper then the roots of any vine that produces fruit each season, with which he’ll be working.

In conversations back and forth, Dan expressed the following humble opinion:

I believe re-connecting with source vineyards, since we’ve more recently become enamored with rock-star winemakers, instead, is an all-important retro-shift in our consciousness that needs to be taken.

We’ve lost our view of the real source of this superior beverage, one that can and does root us to the earth and draws from its energies, while sending our imagination to the stars. Our role as winemakers, while one that does allow creative freedom, should never assume the spotlight from what is the true essence of this thing called wine.

From Howard Goldberg of The New York Times, who had the occasion to write about Dan:

“Dan Kleck, Palmer’s former winemaker, is long gone, but he is not forgotten. Still living in California, Mr. Kleck, arguably Long Island’s best winemaker during his tenure, has left Kendall-Jackson, the winemaking giant, and is a freelance winemaker and a consultant to other vintners. Mr. Kleck’s primary label is Silver Stone…

An interview with winemaker Dan Kleck

[Q]  Let’s not focus on wine making in this Q&A. Let’s focus on the source of the product… viticulture. What are your thoughts about vit, from your wine maker’s perspective?

[A] Given the pace and lack of focus in modern living, respect and grateful admiration for plants is almost entirely missing in both our social and individual consciousnesses. Despite the fact that plants actually embody a viable and vital energy that is purposeful and sustaining for themselves, in addition to aiding animals and humans, as well as the planet as a whole, little empathetic focus is devoted, on our part, to interacting with, or harmonizing with, the specific vibes of the plant world.

[Q]  As a winemaker, you have a pretty interesting agriculturally based perspective. It’s something that I might expect to hear from a vineyardist, more than a winemaker. Which is not to say that it’s not thought of by other winemakers… I’ve just not heard this take before by anyone not Native American and with a wine making background. Care to elaborate?

[A] As humankind advanced from the hunter/gatherer mode to an agrarian-based society, our interactive role with regard to the plant kingdom changed dramatically. For instead of simply ‘taking’ from naturally-bearing plant sustenance and similar wild resources, we began a nurturing and shepherding process whereby our domestication, cultivation and manipulation of plants for our own needs was a major first step toward an intended, 2-way, interactive input with the plant world.

The small home garden and/or family farm remained a staple of modern human existence, until the mid-20th Century. In this hallowed and special sanctuary, gardeners would coddle and coax individual plants, as a parent would rear a child…an interaction that virtually guaranteed a delicious, sustaining outcome. A plant that generously gave of itself, guided in serving its ultimate purpose in a way that shared itself with the needs of the gardener, even as the gardener cared for the plants’ every need.

[Q] How do you see all of this related to viticulture?

[A] That same genuine regard for plants certainly extends to the grapevine. For the wine grape was one of the very first plants cultivated, looking back through the civilizations we’re aware existed. “And Noah planted a vineyard.” of Genesis 9:20, shows that, indeed, the first item on the agenda upon Ark disembarkment was a vine growing endeavor.

In France, ‘Vigneron’ became the term of choice for those whose husbandry of the vines, along with small-batch ‘estate’ winemaking, evolved into a finely-crafted art form. But, let us not pretend that it is the wine artisan who most informs the result. The special bond between a true vineyardist and his/her vines demands that each offer respect and thankfulness for the generosity shared in bringing this unique expression of place to those who would enjoy the fruits of the vine.

[Q]  How do you feel that  quality of wine is impacted by someone  caring so intently for his/her vines?

[A] The savoring qualities of any truly great wine are ultimately enhanced, energized and find expression as a result of the sensitivity that exists in the dynamics of this bond. That is why it is rare to find great wines among those that were tended by robot-like industrial viticultural enterprises with no visceral connection to either the individual or collective vibrational qualities expressed by a unique vineyard. Appropriate, drinkable and pleasant wines can certainly be made by the aforementioned inputs. However, essential character, vibrant and full of vitality, is the dynamic nature of vines grown and tended by a caring, nurturing Vigneron.

[Q]  How do you feel that a Vigneron in the field truly impacts wine quality in the bottle… from grape to glass, so to speak?

[A] One cannot separate the vine from the wine. A winemaker who simply receives the fruit at the cellar door at harvest will be ill-served when it is time to cultivate a true individuality in that wine. That winemaker who walked the vines, engaged with the season’s unfolding in the hills of the vineyard, assisted in managing the vines’ cropping and foliar display for optimal results and ultimately, called the moment at which the vines would end their vintage role, and be relieved of their generous bounty…is clearly the vintner creating wines of character, with expression of the vineyard site intact as the major informing element in the finished wine. These are evocative, singular wines of distinction.

[Q]  Do you have any final thoughts as we head into another season of wine grape growing, Dan?

[A] As our season of growth again unfolds, let us not forget that we are but stewards of a noble obligation and opportunity: to nurture and sustain a superb crop of flavorful clusters that have absorbed all the energy possible from their site, the soil and the season. Let us provide our vineyards with the appreciation, in that bond of connection, as well as the ultimate care they deserve for so graciously offering us this magical elixir of the earth, the elements and the Spirit.

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2 Responses to “Winemaking as a Viticultural Experience ~ Dan Kleck”

  1. Mitch says:

    Handsome Dan! Great post Jo…

  2. Jo says:

    Thanks, Mitch. Dan’s take on vit is pretty inspiring.

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