Wednesdays with Winemakers – Steven Mirassou
Why did you become a vintner?
My family is the oldest wine-making family in the US, but I had not originally intended to get into the business. After many years away, I came to see what beauty we are surrounded by all the time as winemakers: from the pendulous full vines in October, to the full open-top fermenters at harvest. There is a magic in intending to squeeze harmony and balance out of something that is essentially wild.
If you weren’t a vintner, what would you be and why?
A teacher or a writer.
What is your greatest strength?
I think my greatest strength is being able to effectively communicate what is magical about wine and how it fits into a well-lived life.
What is your biggest weakness?
Lack of focus.
What’s the one mistake you made that you would never repeat?
Building a brand too emotionally.
What is your proudest achievement?
The family I helped create, both biologically and from a wine-standpoint.
What was your scariest vintage to date?
I think the scariest vintage is always the next one.
What is your favorite word or saying?
“Does a cat have an ass?” (used as a response to a question such as “Do you want taste through a bunch of wine this afternoon?” By the way, I dare you to try that response a couple of times and not become addicted to it!)
What is your most prized possession?
An unfailing belief that things will turn out okay.
What’s the oddest thing about you?
The inability to hold a grudge…even when I should.
What song best sums you up?
I don’t have one song. But the music of Bruce Springsteen is the most meaningful to me.
What is your favorite memory?
My favorite wine-related memory is about the effect a 70-year old California Angelica (a bottle given to me by my father, who had been given it by his father) had on me when I was first starting out in the business.
Which of the five senses is your strongest?
My sense of smell. I believe it is certainly the most important sense in terms of being able to perceive all the organoleptic mysteries that wine contains.
What is your biggest motivation?
I have two, and perhaps they are inextricably bound or are, indeed, two ways of describing the same phenomenon—the desire to create something truly great and the fear of wasting whatever abilities I possess.
Which bottle of wine would choose to be stranded with on a deserted island?
If it’s a hot deserted island: sparkling wine. If it’s cold, a Bordeaux blend.
What is the difference between a good and great wine?
A good wine is one that is delicious, a great wine is one that is delicious and that one also has an emotional relationship with. A great wine compels one to think and to imagine; a great wine, at the same moment, stops time and creates a sense of timelessness.
Name three individuals you would like to have dinner with.
Bruce Springsteen for what his music has meant to me since the time I was 16; William Shakespeare for an oeuvre that compels with its impossible beauty; my wife, June, for the perfect companion she was for 26 years.
Who is your winemaking hero?
I don’t have a hero, but I greatly respect the wines of Cathy Corison, Steve Matthaisson, Charles Jouguet, and Albert Grivot.
What does the concept of “balance” mean to you?
Balance means that every part of the wine is inevitable…there are no superfluous edges or flavors or aromas. Each part of the wine—its organoleptics and structure—is in seamless service to a cohesive whole.
What is the one thing that you want people to remember about your wine?
I’d like people to feel as if they were able to make an emotional connection between themselves and my wines…and then, by extension, an emotional connection to me.
Best comment made about your wine? Was it by a consumer, trade or press?
“I’m always excited about the next wine you produce.” This was said to me by one of my club members and encapsulates everything a winemaker could want: being able to make a wine that elicits a sense of enjoyment and excitement from a wine lover, a mutually beneficial exchange between two wine lovers, and