At the table: Just for Spits and Giggles

1/30/2016 4:00:12 AM

Justin blowing glass-13

Next week, the tasting-room table will welcome a new addition: spittoons in the form of charming, quirky tumblers that will make you giggle when you hold one. Last year I had the pleasure to make the acquaintance of Justin Parr, a talented glass artist out of San Antonio, Texas. While enjoying a glass of wine at his studio, I fell in love with the small free-form tumbler he had casually handed me. Not long after, we began developing a line of colored glass containers to use as spittoons in the tasting room.

Several months later — and, more importantly, several glasses of wine later — these little jewels came to life. “Don’t get too concerned with what I like when you’re making these,” I had told Justin. “Embrace the unexpected in each one.” Their imperfections are what make them so charming. Not just delightful to hold and gaze through, each of these little tumblers exemplifies what the creative mind can bring forth when the artist is a technical master who’s willing to throw caution to the wind. Traditionally, after all, glass blowing is a craft steeped in the tradition of taming natural elements; most glass blowers therefore obsess over consistency and perfection.

In this regard, it’s a lot like winemaking. In today’s world of cult wine, attempting to produce a bottle that critics will love can stymie variability of expression. Rarely do winemakers embrace the unexpected, but sometimes subtle imperfections can yield depth and reveal character in a wine.

Artistry in wine doesn’t come from the predictable, efficient conversion of the grape’s sugar into alcohol. It comes instead from instinctual knowledge of the technical craft, knowing how to allow the grape to express its individual nature. Like Justin with his glass, our winemaking team lets the grapes themselves control the course of the wine — and the unexpected result is what makes me fall in love with our craft anew, vintage after vintage.

Justin’s inner child’s eye enables him to rebel against the strictures of his fellow glass blowers, to revel in the unexpected and welcome the imperfect. I look forward to the day, not far off now, when I receive our first shipment of his work — then sip a bit of Cabernet, spit into one of these beautiful, playful tumblers and recall Justin’s inspiring, irrepressible giggle. -FP