It’s a phrase we hear and see all the time. It’s both a potent marketing term, and a resonant concept.
The terms suggests old-fashioned attention-to-detail, and a tradition-based respect for craft. It is a de facto affirmation of quality.
By definition, it means the product was created by hand; meaning, by actual people, actually directly, intimately, sensorially involved in the crafting of their product. It means there is a direct, tangible, tactile connection between the maker and the made.
But is it real? In our post-industrial globalized market world, are there still true hand-crafted products out there, that are being produced on a distributable scale?
Of course there are. Maybe not a great many of them. But they’re out there.
It may not ALL be by hand anymore, but there are still hands in there swinging; meaning, there are still craftspeople who are still cradling the components of their creations in practiced hands, shepherding them through to fruition, ensuring at every step that the human touch remains the ultimate barometer of quality.
None of which is to say that one cannot produce quality in contemporary, machine and technology-based fashion. You can. But so can anyone else with access to the same machines and technology. What can’t be replicated is the person; the hands; the craft.
Which brings me to the sorting table.
While there is so much about the wine-producing process that highlights and defines the human touch, there is something about the focus, the deconstructive essence of the sorting table, that speaks so loudly on the subject of hand-crafted. When one thinks of just how many grapes go into a released wine (in the neighborhood of 500-700 for one 750ml bottle!), the fact that just about every single one of those grapes gets observed, analyzed, touched, and assessed en route to fermentation is just astonishing.
I had the great pleasure Saturday of watching the Monte Bello team at work on the sorting table, working on a delivery of Merlot from the Avenue block. Their dedication, attention to detail, meticulousness, concentration, and stamina is truly incredible, and it is this devotion to hand-crafted that I truly believe makes our wines so special.
If you’ve ever enjoyed a private tasting and tour at Monte Bello, you’re likely already familiar with these vines; the Avenue Block is just up the hill behind the tasting room. You can see the location here, in this still from our wonderful flyover aerial vineyard tour:
Please enjoy the following footage of the team in action at the sorting table; featured are Winemaker Eric Baugher, Assistant Winemaker Shun Ishikubo, production assistant Shinji Kurokawa, and harvest intern Joshua Smith.
#Harvest2012. Feel it.