A great wine is many things—complex, delicious, transcendent. But, no wine can be considered great without one crucial quality: balance. From the vineyard to the winery, finding the path to creating wines in harmony is the objective of In Pursuit of Balance. The organization was founded by Jasmine Hirsch of Sonoma’s celebrated Hirsch Vineyards and leading sommelier Rajat Parr, Wine Director of Michael Mina Resataurants, co-author of Secrets of the Sommeliers, and proprietor of Sandhi Wines and Domaine de la Côte in Santa Barbara. An exclusive selection of 33 of California’s greatest producers of chardonnay and pinot noir, In Pursuit of Balance offers wine seminars and tastings, celebrating its fifth year in San Francisco next Monday, March 16.
The Daily Sip had the pleasure of chatting with Rajat Parr to learn more about the organization and the challenges of creating balanced wine in California.
The Daily Sip: Just to begin, tell us your vision in creating In Pursuit of Balance.
Rajat Parr: It was initially just to have a small group of friends to discuss how we can achieve balance in the vineyard and in the wines. Now the group has become much larger The vision is still the same, but now we have many other members and organizations, but I never expected it to become this big.
TDS: What are you looking for in the wineries you invite to participate in In Pursuit of Balance?
RP: I think it is about like-minded people, who think in the same way, making wines of elegance and finesse—not necessarily wines of power, but ones with more subtlety.
TDS: Why does the organization focus on pinot noir and chardonnay?
RP: Initially, because that is the wines we make. That is our focus, but that is because that is what we produce. That’s all we can deal with right now. We just don’t have the bandwidth to include other grape varieties.
TDS: What do you believe to be the biggest threat to creating balanced wine here in California?
RP: I think the weather is challenging, especially the past couple years, which were warmer than the last decade. The climate is the biggest challenge to keeping the acidity and alcohol in harmony. I think we need to adjust more in the vineyards and adapt to climate change—deal with earlier bud break and earlier flowering, how to manage sugar levels and ripen the grapes at the end, not the beginning of the growing season.
TDS: As a proprietor at Sandhi Wines and Domaine de la Côte, you produce your own California chardonnay and pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills. What makes the region such a special place for producing great wines?
RP: Where we are, of course, is a cool climate. We have very special diatomaceous soil, a marine sedimentary soil, unique to Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Barbara. The wines are full of energy and full of acidity.
TDS: Speaking to your background as one of America’s leading sommeliers, do you believe that a balanced wine is always a food-friendly wine?
RP: Yeah, I think so. A wine in harmony is exactly like a dish on the plate. If a dish is too acidic or too sweet, it’s out of balance. The same is true with wine.
For more information on In Pursuit of Balance and their upcoming events in San Francisco, Houston, and Japan, click HERE.
What do you think is the most critical quality to great wine? Share with us below!
Photo Credit: Sandhi Wines