Snapshots of the creative elements of making wine.

Author’s note: In 2012, assistant curator at the Parrish Art Museum Andrea Grover introduced “PechaKucha Nights” to the East End. With the theme of “Living Creatively on the East End,” 10 members of the community are invited to present 20 slides at 20 seconds each, yielding six minutes and 40 seconds per presenter. Meaning “chit-chat” in Japanese these evening installations were actually started in Japan as a way for young architects without other outlets to share their work and network, and 500 cities around the world have launched similar happenings. At the Parrish, the evenings have blossomed into a series of inspirational evenings that happen each quarter, with a fresh batch of presenters. They became a unique, curated opportunity to meet the many artists, writers, musicians, gardeners, farmers, baymen, winemakers, chefs, designers, architects and other creative professionals that comprise our region, including contributors and subjects from this magazine: farmers like Marilee Foster; Ty Kotz of Topping Rose House; salt producers Stephen and Natalie Judelson; restaurateur Dennis McDermott of the Riverhead Project. The following text and images are from the presentation that the author gave at the Parrish Art Museum on November 21, 2012.


RELEVANCE: It is one of those things we all look for…want. In our life, Art, work, Community. Reaching, striving, finding, losing, hoping for… And that’s what I’m trying to squeeze out of this fistful of grapes!

PLACE: This is what we celebrate. Our home, Our Terroir. We try to reflect it in every bottle, that sense of somewhereness. It is special, it is beauty, it is light, it is Home.

POTENTIAL: Like a newborn, so much possibility, so much hope, so much unknown, so much happiness, so much worry, so full of life.

SOIL: Much more than sand, more complex than credited for, our beautiful loam, mixture of sand, silt and clay, with its gravelly subsoils. A glacier helped form this island 10,000 years ago. What amazes me still is its drainage potential—two to four inches of rain, and it’s gone in a few hours!

ANIMAL: Yes, that was Remy barking. She comes almost everywhere with us. And who can deny what the animal illuminates. The primal, simplicity, love, companionship, silence. The paradox of happiness and hassle that animals bring is priceless.

WATER: I don’t even know where to begin…. It’s even more important! It defines our existence, its why we are here, causes all the bad and all the good and we all require extraordinary amounts; in the winery alone 2 to 10 liters is needed just to make 1 liter of wine.

HARVEST: One cycle ends. Another begins. With one snip, one growing, one making. Inextricably linked and at this moment one.

CLONES: In the old days we used to bury a cane, one side popping out exposed and cut the next year. Presto a new cloned plant. This connects us to an ancient past. These vines looked at that way have been alive for thousands of years. And thus links us to those people who cared for them before.

ART: Our partner Walter Channing’s beautiful, whimsical, impressive, sexual works dot our landscape. He handed a creative blank slate to partner and founder Larry Perrine who in turn has passed the same Tabla Rasa to us. Channing Daughters oozes creative spirit.

10 INSPECTION: So many decisions made in this moment, organaleptic and analytical. How is the fruit integrity? What are the aromas, flavors, chemistry? How will we process, where will it go, what style is intended?

11 FERMENTATION: Still Magical. So much we still don’t know or understand. It hasn’t even been 150 years since Pasteur identified what it was. The agitation, the excitement. No two are the same, the rate, temperature, kinetics, chemistry, sound, taste, smell, outcome. It is psychedelic.

12 WHITE: We celebrate all the hues possible in the spectrum of color and style. Here classic-modern whites. Hand-harvested fruit. Whole Cluster-pressed gently. Expressed, delicate juice. Transferred to vessels for ferment. Only possible since electricity, stainless steel and refrigeration.

13 PINK: Made just like the white wines. Modern-intervened upon. Sexy. Frivolous and serious. Delicious, diverse, beautiful, fun, playful, refreshing.

14 ORANGE: Ancient. White wines made like red wines. Fermented on their skins. They take on characteristics not typically expected in whites. Textural, complex, meditative. Recently re-appreciated. Engages the intellectual as well as the hedonic self.

15 RED: For us—Old School. Hand harvest beautiful ripe fruit. De-stem, Ferment. Stomp on, punch down by hand and shovel in small one ton bins. Press off—barrel—bottle. That’s it. Minimal.

16 DELICIOUSNESS: This looks like pleasure. What we do, what we try to do, is highly pleasing to the senses. It is alive. It tastes good. It smells good. It looks good. It feels good. It sounds good. It is good all throughout its existence.

17 CREW: We have the best crew around. That extends to everyone who works at CDW, but Abel our vineyard manager and his three brothers and brother-in-law are rock stars! Little needs to be said, just a look…a nod. We’ve all worked together a decade-plus now, everyone understands what it takes. From digging a hole to delivering a case. There is pride, continuity.

18 HERITAGE: Something that comes to one by reason of birth. It is reassuring in this day and age that some things can still be passed down through generations. And inspiring to think our children, if they choose, could select that path. This little guy has been part of growing wine since he could taste a grape and ask to help.

19 CREATIONS: People sometimes ask which is the best or your favorite, but there is not one…like children. Each one is individual. Each has a reason for being. Every wine has a mood, food, time, place, season, person to indulge and interact with, to compare and contrast. To create a story with.

20 FAMILY: What is more important? This is the reason for everything. All love and creativity emanates from this unit. And how wonderful, lucky to get to live and work here on the East End with my family and friends growing grapes and making wines. It’s not easy. But there is nothing better or more relevant.

James Christopher Tracy is the winemaker and partner at Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton, as well as a student candidate for the Institute of Masters of Wine.