Charles Smith does two things with his wines, made in Washington state. They have clever, intelligent labels and names in the style of Randall Grahm like Kung Fu Girl Riesling and Eve (as in the Garden of Eden) Chardonnay. And they’re well-made, honest wines that reflect where the grapes are from and not what the Wine Magazines say they should taste like.
“You have to be responsible to all of the people who drink wine who don’t speak wine,” says Smith. who was in Dallas last month to make the rounds of retailers and writers. “And the No. 1 responsibility, whether it’s a $10 wine or a $100 wine, is to make the best wine possible.”
Which makes Smith the Wine Curmudgeon’s kind of guy. More, after the jump:
Smith has been making this kind of wine for a while. He started with K Vintners, which established the pattern with K Syrah. At the Magnificent Wine Company, he did the House Red and House White blends, which are quality $12 wines. These days, he makes wine through Charles Smith Wines, which continues the pattern. And this probably isn’t surprising, given Smith’s outsize personality, but the Wine Magazines love him. His wines even show up on their videos.
“We want people who drink the wines to like them,” says Smith, which is a candidly refreshing thing for a winemaker to say. One of the deep, dark secrets of the wine business is that many winemakers don’t care if consumers like their wine. We’re supposed to drink it regardless, because the winemaker says we should.
“I don’t want to dictate a certain flavor, and I don’t want to do things that will dumb the wine down,” says Smith. “The wine needs to be sophisticated and balanced, and it should taste like it’s supposed to taste.”
His plan is simple: Put a clever label on the wine to intrigue consumers, charge a reasonable price -- $12 is a favorite– and make wine that tastes like it costs much more.
The Charles Smith wine that gets the most attention is the Kung Fu riesling, inspired by the Quentin Tarantino movie. But the one that impressed me the most is a rose he made with Charles Bieler of Three Thieves fame (another winemaker who believes in value). It’s not always easy to find, but the Washington state Charles and Charles rose is pretty much everything a New World rose should be – inexpensive, fruity, dry and low in alcohol.
“The one thing that never changes about wine is that it is something to put on the table and drink with friends,” says Smith. “Our mission is to make wine for those people.”
Can’t argue with that, can you?