Wine Snob: a special breed of wine-lover who feels the need to proclaim their superior knowledge to anyone within earshot.
There is a sense of notable intelligence that is associated with talking about wine but with that intelligence can come the stigma of being a wine snob. While I come from a place of there being a wine for everyone, there are people who like to have an air of exclusivity when it comes to what they like. I have already noticed that in the short time that I've been working in the wine industry, the people closest to me have commented on how smart I sound. Not to say I've never been considered an intelligent individual but when you can speak confidently about something that another person may be unacquainted with, you’ll probably come off as more astute. The main point that I need to get across, though, is that intelligence does not have to equal snobbery.
To any winemakers reading this, I am so sorry for the rest of this sentence, but… I truly don't care how you drink your wine. Fill your glass to the brim with ice, chill your reds, drink your sparkling out of a plastic cup; it’s all cool with me. At the very core, wine is meant to be enjoyed and as long as you're down to share a bottle with me, I'm down with however you want to enjoy your half. (No promises that I won't poke a little fun at you for drinking your Merlot on ice, though.)
As the North Fork Wine Country looks towards the next 50 years, it’s not a bad idea to think about how wine in general will inevitably change. We must always hold on to the age-old traditions, respect the origins and take notes from our mentors who planted the first roots but no vine grows the same way twice and I'm all for new ideas. I believe that the future is in good hands. Us young people are way more aware of what is going on with the world and while arguably we have access to too much information these days, the next generation of North Fork oenophiles really seem to want to use all that information for the good of our future.
“To each their own,” “you do you,” all the sayings that pertain to holding on to your individuality are great but I do think there can be a more inclusive exclusivity; there is not a single grape varietal in the world that has a maximum occupancy. I have a dream…(that's not copyrighted, right?) that one day a bottle of 2013 Cabernet Franc and a bottle of chillable 2022 Cabernet Franc can stand beside each other on the same table surrounded and enjoyed by multiple generations of Wine Geeks. Yeah, Wine Geeks. I like that way better than Wine Snobs.
Just because you don't like it, doesn't mean it's bad.
Let me say that again, just because you don't like it, doesn't mean it's bad. Now, as I'm sure you all already know, my personality is just as sweet as molasses (unless it's first thing in the morning,) but that doesn’t necessarily mean I like my wine to match my personality. Even though a super sweet, jammy wine may be the last glass I would choose, I'll never say no to a tasting. Why you ask? Why would I knowingly choose to drink something I probably won't enjoy? Well, I guess you could say, I'm always open to the possibility of changing my mind.
A wise man (cough, cough Tim) once told me, that a wise man once said, “drink the wine in your glass, not the wine in your head.” When I first heard this I had to stop and ponder what that really meant. I understood it on a surface level, but it goes deeper than just those twelve words. What it means is, don’t let your assumptions keep you from the potential of a new experience.
If I had a dollar for every person that immediately shunned the idea of our Dry Riesling all because of a preconceived notion that it is "sweet," well, I would probably be able to buy a couple bottles of Suhru Wine. For a majority of people, Riesling = too Sweet and while I'd like to think that I'm pretty persuasive, I can't always convince people to change their minds, so, unfortunately, they miss out on tasting our 0.9% residual sugar, DRY Riesling made from the grapes of the Finger Lakes which is one of the top tier regions in the world for Riesling. Now, when someone does take my advice and gives our Riesling a chance, they almost always are pleasantly surprised. Heck, sometimes they even buy an entire bottle because they never thought they would find a Riesling that they enjoyed so much! Of course, the pleasantly surprised reactions are a huge testament to the incredible talent that our winemaker, Russell Hearn possesses. He truly is a mad scientist, artist, and magician all in one but it’s also because at Suhru, we like to present wines that you've either never heard of (think Teroldego and La Crescent) or wines done in a way that isn't typical (Dry Riesling, cool climate Australia style Shiraz, and Pinot Grigio—I dare you to find another true Pinot Grigio, not Pinot Gris on Long Island.)
Could this be a political post? Sure… there's one generation that seems to be a bit too “stuck in their ways,’ while another generation is trying to “change too much,” and then my generation is the middle child that just wants happiness and balance between everyone. But honestly, I like to keep those political ice cubes out of my wine. I have read, though, that our taste buds change every seven years. Whether this is true or just a human biology myth, I know for a fact that there are things I've grown to like as an adult that I never would have thought about consuming as a kid. If I do nothing else, I want to encourage you to live outside your preconceived notions; re-try the things you’ve already decided you don't like. I mean, even Santa Claus checks his list twice before he decides who's naughty and who's nice, right?
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Ok, so, it’s not that I have a bad palate, it’s just that I'm inexperienced?
I've recently watched the Somm documentaries and when the group of Sommeliers were doing the blind tasting they were able to name the exact region and vintage of each wine. My mind was blown and I thought to myself, how could my palate ever be that good?!
Maybe it's not so much about having the perfect palate and more about knowing the ins and outs of each wine varietal, region, vintage, etc. Don't get me wrong, palate training is 100% important but how can you recognize the flavor of Gooseberry if you've never had one? Well, as soon as you're done reading this, go to your local grocery store, start sniffing all the spices, buy all the produce and if anyone looks at you funny just tell them you're improving your palate. How can you tell the difference between Long Island wine and California wine? Well, stop scrolling on social media and start Googling.
Let’s think of it like a game of Guess Who. Your opponent has poured themselves a glass of secret vino and you have 12 different photos of wine in front of you. If you know what questions to ask, you can very easily deduce which one they poured. Start simple: Red or white? They say red; you can eliminate half of the wines in front of you. Red fruit notes or dark fruit notes? They say red fruit; flip down more photos. French or Italian grape? They say Italian; eliminate all the Frenchies.
Now just imagine you're playing this game with yourself every time you're tasting wine. When your brain to palate connection is strong enough to recognize that soft tannin, red fruit forward Italian grape varietal… you’re probably drinking Teroldego and maybe you’ll also recognize those same nuances in say, a new red blend at the Suhru Tasting house? *Cough*Cough* Ember. We all can become a Sherlock Holmes of wine— just look for the clues.
I doubt that there will ever be a day that I will know absolutely everything about wine and even now, I’ve only barely scratched the surface. But honestly, that’s really exciting. The magic of wine is that when you're properly tasting it, you are fully living in the present with each sip expanding your knowledge. Every bottle you open has a story to tell and a lesson to be taught. Wait, so does that mean I'll get a little smarter with every glass I drink? I’m not sure if that’s the exact takeaway from this but whatever floats your boat. Cheers to being a forever student!
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To say that I'm a novice when it comes to wine would be an understatement, but there is no greater driving force than that which is passion. I would be lying, however, if I said that embarking on this journey doesn’t feel daunting and, well, kinda scary. Wine has such a vastly rich history; I mean, hell, even Jesus drank it. (and yes, the irony in that sentence was 100% planned.)
Applying to be the Assistant Tasting Room Manager at Suhru was a spur of the moment, “why not,” decision. At least, that’s what I thought at the time. It turns out that, maybe, some things do happen for a reason.
Living on the South Shore of Long Island for the majority of my life, coming out to the North Fork was a bit of an endeavor, but that 40-60 minute drive was always worth it. I’ve experienced the East End wineries and tasting houses, in both small and large group settings, with family, and even with a few strangers that I had only met that morning. Regardless of the who, or how many, the common denominator was always… wine.
I’ve been able to have conversations with people that probably wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the bottle that sat between us. I guess you could say that wine is the proverbial Conch Shell. (That was a Lord of the Flies reference for all of my literary nerds.) I’ve shared bottles with people who have made wine a way of life, and with those who only cared about the alcohol content. But with each sip I took, the unknowing vinifera passion grew. While others immediately grabbed their glass from the bar after it was poured, I was always the last to walk away, because to me, the story behind what was poured into my glass was more important than the glass itself.
I remember the day I met Shelby at the Tasting House for my interview like it was yesterday. It was only 6 months ago, but you know what I mean. One of the first things she asked me was, “What do you know about wine?” Now, the term, Word Vomit, is typically used in a negative sense but in this case, I ralphed up everything I've absorbed through my wine journey thus far. Most interviews don’t last very long but when you’re in the right place at the right time, an hour and a half goes by pretty quickly. Interview questions just felt like friendly conversation, and I guess being a wine sponge all these years really paid off because the next morning I was offered the position.
In the short time that I’ve worked here the most common question I get asked is, “Are you one of the daughters?” my response is often, “Well, not by blood, but by choice, so I know they must like me.” While my sarcastic tone is abundantly present when I say this, there is very much an underlying truth to it. The Hearn family as well as the Suhru staff immediately welcomed me with open arms. This Tasting House is more of a Tasting Home and I couldn’t be more grateful for the Family, Friends, and Neighbors I've met thus far. I will keep being the best sponge I can be, while I continue my wine education journey learning from not only the incredible staff here but the knowledgeable guests I get to hang out with 5 days a week!
Follow along with Shannon's wine education as she expands her pallet and explores the world of wine. Check back each month to read about her latest wine musings. Want to know more about Shannon? Checkout her Bio