“Consider the Grape,” a piece of branded content for wine subscription club, is modeled after M.F.K. Fisher’s Consider the Oyster and tells the story of a grape from vine to bottle. In this piece, I utilized my research skills and knowledge of the brand to make the complicated and intricate process of winemaking easy to relate to and easy to read. This piece of branded content was written for Writing for Digital Media, Fall 2016.
TALES FROM THE VINE
CONSIDER THE GRAPE: One brave grape’s journey from vine to doorstep
Ms. Pina Pinot Noir begins her young grape life just as countless generations of her family before her have: at the award-winning Moniker Estates Vineyard in California’s Mendocino County. The Pinot Noirs are a close-knit family. They have no choice – it’s in their DNA to stick together. Pina and her siblings grow up tightly bunched together, hanging in pine cone-shaped clusters under the watchful eye of Ma and Pa Vine. With its warm, but not hot, summers and cool, but not cold, winters, Mendocino County is the perfect environment to raise Pinot Noir grapelings.
Pina spends the spring and summer of her youth soaking in the nutrients of the fine alluvial soil of Anderson Valley. Along with her Pinot Noir cousins throughout Mendocino County, from the gravel and clay of Eagle Peak to the sandstone and silt of Potter Valley, Pina will carry with her the flavor fingerprint of these springs and summers. Each delayed rainfall, chilly night and sun-kissed week will make her into the independent, singular grape she’s meant to be.
Come August, Pina, her siblings and her far-flung cousins, have emerged from their adolescence. They are ready to leave the comforts and the vineyard. Destiny, the barrel and the bottle await.
Pina and her cluster of siblings are hand-cut from the vine and head to the first stop of adulthood: destemming and crushing. It’s like Pina’s bat mitzvah, or confirmation, or any other rite of initiation. She’s entering a new phase of her life, and the winemakers are throwing her a party. A fermentation party.
Unlike a white Pinto Grigio grape, which attends the fermentation party naked, Pina and the Pinot Noirs adhere to a strict dress code: they keep their skins on. It’s what will give the wine its ruby-black hue and a multifaceted, earthbound flavor.
At the fermentation party, Pina and her siblings are encouraged to blend with their Pinot Noir cousins from all over Mendocino County. It’s a tense meeting. Will they get along? Though they share the same millennium-old DNA, Pinot Noir grapes are temperamental. Their different upbringings can either clash, resulting in boring wine, or complement one another, producing a prize-winning, superb Mendocino County Pinot Noir. Luckily for Pina, and the winemakers, everyone blends well together and the party is a hit.
The fermentation party is fully catered with two types of yeast for Pina and the other guests to gorge themselves on. A German yeast brings out the wine’s dark fruit profile, while native yeast coaxes out bright fruit flavors and forest floor aromatics. The party rages on for an average of 10 days until the collective coming of age is complete, and everyone’s sugars have been converted into alcohol. Thus, a grape becomes a wine.
The after-party is held in American Oak barrels where the wine ages and develops its fruity, spicy, earthy expression. It tastes distinctly of Mendocino County: intense berry from Redwood Valley, rhubarb and potpourri from Potter Valley, all rounded out by the earthy robustness from Pina’s home vineyard in Anderson Valley.
The wine is bottled, and Pina, her siblings, her cousins, are given a new name: the 2014 Moniker Pinot Noir. They will go on to win a gold medal and 92 point score at the 2014 LA International Wine Competition.
But Pina’s journey is just beginning. Right now, Firstleaf, the world’s first fully customizable wine club., is featuring the 2014 Moniker Pinot Noir in its three-wine introductory bundle. For $19.95 (that includes shipping!), Firstleaf will ship a bottle of 2014 Moniker Pinot Noir and two other wines, directly from the vineyard to your doorstep. And if three bottles of wine just isn’t enough to keep your tongue sufficiently purple, sign up for Firstleaf’s wine club to receive 6 bottles of wine every 1, 2 or 3 months, depending on how thirsty you are.