If I was a chef (which I’m not, but I bet this conjecture is close to the mark) and one week I over-ordered, say, lobster, prime rib and maybe Macedonian weasel cheese, here’s what I’d do: I’d purée them all in a giant Cuisinart, make a bisque, invent an esoteric name like ‘Entaksi’ or ‘Imekala’, serve it to top guests on a busy Saturday night, then wait for the accolades about my aggressive creativity to roll in.
That’s what I used to think of winemakers who made strange varietal blends, using grapes with opposing characteristics, different brix and individual responses to things like malolactic and oak-aging. I figured that they somehow wound up with extra blocks of various grapes and just tossed them all together in the stockpot and hoped that the resulting wine would make them appear iconoclastic geniuses on the edge of the New World cut—which it rarely did.
So, when a sample of Boyd Morrison’s ‘Apothic’ arrived via NAFTA (North American Free Tipple Alliance—a trade bloc open only to wine writers) and I saw that it was a blend of chardonnay, riesling and moscato, my first reaction was to roll my eyes and squish out a ‘sheesh’, especially since he only made 400 cases of it and still sells it for only fourteen bucks.
Sounded like a textbook case of, “What do we do with these hectares of chardonnay, riesling and moscato we were supposed to pick on September 17, but couldn’t because the Mexicans were all hung over?”
Not, mind you, that I don’t trust the winemaker’s judgment. Boyd Morrison is to wine what Van Morrison is to transcendental live jazz/blues fusion; as Toni Morrison is to maudlin, over-the-top black woman brain-dumps; as Jim Morrison is to lizard kingdoms.
Well, perhaps that is a slight exaggeration. Were I to shame the devil by telling the truth, I’d have to admit that I don’t have the slightest clue who Boyd Morrison is. He is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a fermentation carboy.
And it’s not for my lack of trying. As a professional critic, I may embrace few of journalism’s most essential mandates (i.e.; I take eons to get to the point, I embrace unnecessary words, I rarely fact-check and if I end with a bang, it’s merely the sound of me imploding my Dell Pentium), but I do try to do a modicum of research about a wine’s genesis before I write about it.
Usually, that’s child’s play, because most enologists are ego-tipsy, and once the heavy lifting is done and they’ve got nothing to do but drink, they love doing interviews and posing for photo ops and they pass out biographies as eagerly as that bee-costumed schmuck at the florist shop passes out 10% off coupons.
Not So Boyd Morrison
Uncovering background dope on Boyd Morrison wound up being tougher than discovering the identity of a random Special Ops commando. As buffs of the beast know, wine websites usually cream all over their winemaker, but Apothic’s neither has a tab on him, nor any photographs of him, and even more cryptically, in discussing Apothic’s origins, offers this sentence:
‘In late 2005, a Master Winemaker envisioned an epic wine that would combine Old World blending traditions with a markedly New World style. Thus began the path that led his protégé, winemaker Boyd Morrison, to create Apothic…’
Further copy mentions the mysterious ‘Master Winemaker’ several more times, but never once identifies him by name.
Strangest of all was the conversation I had with the winery itself. They were extremely accommodating and friendly—too friendly, perhaps. They insisted that they were gathering my requested biographical information as we spake; that it would be to me within the hour.
That hour passed, then another and another and twelve more…
Ultimately, taking the bull by the horns, I found a brief film clip of Boyd being interviewed at Joe Canal’s Woodbridge liquor store. At least, it was someone claiming to be Boyd Morrison. This individual was extremely clean-cut, nicely coiffed, wearing what looked like a pair of Skechers designer glasses—not at all resembling the loping, slovenly, unshaven protohumans I usually encounter when I ask to meet the winemaker.
Who are you, and what have you done with Boyd Morrison?
If this is indeed Boyd Morrison, he looks more like the kind of fellow who wants to discuss Jesus and your immortal soul when you answer the door at ten o’clock Saturday morning.
Ah, But The Wine…
So, as I began to say before I got all sidetracked by Boyd watching, when I uncorked the wine, I expected this arcane alloy to go the route of most last-minute desperation blends, which generally hit the palate sort of wrongly—flabby, unbalanced and lacking finesse—kind of like my Entaksi bisque.
In fact, my Apothic epiphany was profound and my surprise could not have been more pleasant. Apothic is obviously a well-planned and intentional blend of expertly-chosen grapes; it rolls across the tongue in a series of juicy, sweet fruit layers—and the fruits are sufficiently well-defined that even a first-year tasting student should be able to assign each to the varietal from whence it sprang. The moscato kicks in honey and probably a bit of rose; the riesling brings peach and apricot to the party while chardonnay’s ripe apple notes are obvious. The wine retains 2.58 g/110 ml residual sugar, but a nice acid spine (3.36 pH for geeks), partly the result of picking the grapes at night, when acids are highest—as the intensity of the fruit notes are partly the result of a later-than-usual harvest in 2011, but also due to centrifugal racking.
How do I know all this? A little Boyd told me, via viticulture notes, which he signed in such an obtuse manner as to further compound the mystery…
I think I’ve figured it out.
The wine’s website insists that ‘Apothic’ was named for an alchemistic place called the Apotheca, wherein 13th century vintners stored their most coveted concoctions.
Fie on that, I say, because if that were the case, why not call the wine ‘Apotheca’?
No, that’s what mystery writers refer to as a red herring. A quick reference check with the most valuable site on the web, Urban Dictionary, will tell you what ‘apothic’ really means. And I quote:
‘Generally used to describe a dull, boring, or depressed person.’
So that’s it. Boyd’s not a spy, not a cipher; he is a wet blanket, a soporific stuffed shirt, a nudge—probably too introverted to want any publicity.
Dude! No worries! We can’t all be gregarious, clubby, Big Men On Campuses like yours truly!
The game plan going forward? I’m sure you’re too shy to make suggestions, Boyd, so let me take the driver’s seat here:
You make the wine and I’ll make the headlines.
Apothic White Winemaker’s Blend, California, 2011, around $14.