I don’t write about wine. Not in the traditional sense. I write about the business of wine. My observations. The evolution of the market and the shortcomings of the system. It’s not that I don’t enjoy wine. I do. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate the nuances and beauty of the product. I do. But there are far better and more passionate critics that do a spectacular job of sharing the flavors and smells — the stories behind the wine and the people that make them. I admire so many of them, but again, that’s not me. I’m more of a wine industry digital anthropologist, and futurist all rolled into one. My day job is building software companies that help wineries thrive.
I do participate in regular wine experiences. Tastings, tours, conferences, and events are all part of the industry. So are “Variety Days.” Variety Days are now commonplace where people meet online to taste a wine and chat about the grape, different wines, producers, and styles. While I’ve been a regular participant in a variety of variety days (Chardonnay Day, Zinfandel Day, Merlot Day, etc.), it’s been mostly out of duty to my community and to share wines via social media with wine, loving technology colleagues outside our industry. While I initially liked the concept, I haven’t been much of a big fan of them over the years. Perhaps it was the absurdity of the person who initiated the first Chardonnay day and then tried to trademark all variety days. Or maybe it was the over commercial nature that wineries adopted for social media versus making it an opportunity about customer discovery and community building. I’m not sure, but while constantly an engaged participant, it was obligatory. However I was never enthralled with the days despite always having something good in my glass.
However, this year, when David Strada asked me to participate in Sauvignon Blanc day, it oddly felt like an opportunity I couldn’t miss. David, one of the kindest humans I know. But also as NZ Wine Growers’ North American leader since the dawn of time, he’s been a tireless and successful champion for the country, the wineries, and, as a result, its most famous variety Sauvignon Blanc. For this year’s event, he partnered with one of the many restaurants that were closed due to COVID-19, Mersea. Together they organized a kit of food and wine so that people could join along. But instead of it feeling like an obligation, May 1st, 2020, otherwise known as Sauvignon Blanc Day, was not about wine. The hand-delivered package of wine and seafood from San Francisco to Napa from David and Mersea was a time machine. A magical tool that instantly connected Sauvignon Blanc Days of origin to this one in 2020.
When the world around us has stopped to slow the spread of a dangerous pandemic forcing us to “shelter in place” and social distancing, we feel the havoc on our economy and our communities that now plague our psyche. We are overcome with uncertainty, exacerbated with the continual loss of life day after day build, and continually filling us all with anxiety. Not to mention the fact that our immediately adjacent industry, restaurants, are facing a possible extinction event. Wineries scrambling to fill both the tasting room and on-premise gap to survive. To make it worse, we see it first hand. We are experiencing our friends and neighbors out of work or scrambling to stay afloat or in people we know and care about in NYC, grieving the loss of loved ones. The death toll, as of today, Monday, May 4th, is at 69,430, with no signs of stopping. With no ability to reach out and hug people. No way to meet them at a restaurant or wine bar or even in the park or beach, it’s online that we’ve found comfort and refuge. And that, my friends, is where variety days started and still live. So what a pleasure it was to receive the gift of food and wine from a friend. Someone who took hours of his day to deliver wine and sustenance across Northern California. Like most that are fortunate to be working, my days are doubly busy, but on Friday night, when I got home, I actually looked forward to opening my social media accounts. To see something very different than the terrible and growing results of the pandemic but rather to see my friends and family online. To sit by my wife’s side sharing some tasty planked salmon and Sauvignon Blanc and scrolling through my phone to watch what others were drinking and sharing. It was a small moment to connect virtually connect with so many people I care about. So many people I respect.
On this variety Friday I enjoyed the food from a restaurant that I hope to visit when this is over with gratitude to a friend who made the extra effort to deliver it. I watched videos from wineries around the world, reminding all of us online of yesterday when the world was about getting together and sharing wine and stories and a tomorrow that will soon come. Sauvignon Blanc Day 2020 wasn’t about the wine. For me it was about connection. It was about one wine world, reunited online, finding refuge and comfort with each other over a beautiful beverage and reminiscing about what was and finding hope, together, of what will be. Together, apart, we’ll all get through this to a better place. Stay safe, everyone.
Some of my favorite posts/wines from Sauvignon Blanc Day -