Check out this video profile by me and fellow science writer Ritchie King. We talked to Dave Breeden, who makes wine in upstate New York at Sheldrake Point winery. Dave’s quite a character, and he has interesting views on whether winemaking is an art or a science.
If you liked what you saw, you may also want to read my profile of Dave. He’s quirky and interesting, and he also gave me wine while I interviewed him!
The bottle as beaker
Dave Breeden pops a ripe cabernet sauvignon grape into his mouth. A look of complete absorption fills his face as he chews. “It’s sweet,” he says. “The seeds are crunchy and ripe. There’s nothing green, no bell pepper flavors.” He looks up from the vines, pleased. “These are ready to go.” On this windblown, brightly sunny October day, it’s time to harvest the grapes. Then they’re off to the crusher-destemmer, the fermenter, the barrel, the bottle, and at long last, the glass. Breeden will watch over them through each step of the process, sniffing, swirling, sipping and spitting what starts out as a muddle of sugars, acids, and other chemical compounds and eventually becomes that magical beverage humans have revered for nearly seven thousand years: wine.
Breeden, 46, is the head vintner at Sheldrake Point Winery in the Finger Lakes area of New York state. He is an endearing mix of bohemian and geek: tall and lanky, he sports glasses and a long graying ponytail, a navy button-up and several silver rings. The rings emphasize his exceptionally long fingers, which he uses to punctuate his every passionate sentence. They fly around him in a blur: now stabbing the air as he denigrates the overripe, jammy flavors of California cabernet sauvignons, now twisted tightly together as talks with a sort of sheepish pride about Sheldrake’s numerous awards.