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1. What impact on your winemaking do periodicals such as The Wine Advocate and The Wine Spectator have?

2. You make a lot of "blended" wines. What are you trying to achieve by blending? Are you more aiming at imitating other wines (such as Chateauneuf-du-Papes, Bandols, Chianti, etc.) or creating something original?

3. You're a smart guy. Didn't your mother want you to be a doctor or something 'normal'?

4. What effects do Feng Shui have in your winery?

5. You're not a sommelier, but you "played" one in a San Francisco restaurant a couple of years ago. What is your opinion of the wine-drinking/dining public? How much Chardonnay did you spill on the patrons?

6. You make many reasonably priced wines, yet so many California vintners ask ridiculous sums for a bottle of wine. How do you approach the pricing issue and how is your approach different from your competitors?

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Dear Echezeaux,

Thanks very much for your questions.

1. Obviously the Wine Spectator and the Wine Advocate have a tremendous influence on wine buying patterns, cf. the most recent BDV parody, The National Vinquirer, in which a 100 pt. rating in the W.A. will result in a wine turning into a black hole. We want our leaders, whoever they are, to be more intelligent, more creative, more thoughtful than they actually are; this is human nature. But withal, I think that both of these publications could do a lot more toward spreading the message of the virtue of vinous diversity rather than the insistence that a wine conform to a certain Platonic paradigm.

2. Blending wine is the only rational option in a warm, Mediterranean climate to produce wines that have any real personality and complexity. Yes, of course, I have followed traditional models, i.e. I have studiously worked at excluding say cabernet sauvignon from Le Cigare Volant, but this has not really been with the intent of slavishly trying to mimic the Old World examplars, rather than to just set some parameters; else, nothing but pure chaos would ensue. (Perhaps in a few years I will be ready to deconstruct these blends, in the fashion of El Boulli and bottle things like grenache foam.)

3. My parents were heartbroken that I did not become a doctor.

4. We have made some rudimentary efforts at enhancing the feng shui at the winery but I think that we are still pretty screwed up.

5. I did work (or play) a few years ago as a sommelier at Elka's restaurant but did not spill a single drop of Chardonnay on any patron, for the simple reason that no chardonnay was offered on the wine list.

6. Pricing. One puts on one's prayer shawl and faces East and hopes that one gets it right. The only real way to do it is to rigorously taste what is out there in the same (or near) category and try to be brutally honest about how you stack up. It is of course problematic if one year your wine tastes like a $12 bottle and the next like a $20. Again, this is where prayer comes in. Cheers, RG.

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