Terry Hoage played defensive back in the NFL for 13 seasons; now he's a farmer and winemaker in Paso Robles.
Sitting next to Hoage, even in a nice restaurant, is like facing a blitz. He wears grubby clothes from harvest and won't take polite demurrals for an answer.
I was yakking about the natural wine movement, which hasn't made a lot of headway in Paso Robles. I don't remember what I was saying people should try -- biodynamic farming, dry farming, wild yeast; it doesn't really matter.
Hoage's question was this:
"If you like a wine, is there anything you could learn about it that would make you not like it anymore?"
It's a fantastic question.
If I like a wine already, I guess I don't care what was done to it in the winery.
That means that if the wine tastes good -- keeping in mind that my "tastes good" isn't the same as Jay Miller's -- and I later find out it was treated with oak chips, reverse osmosis, fining with fish bladders, or even (sigh) blending with unlisted varietals (hello, Pinot/Syrah), I forfeit my right to complain once I give it the thumbs-up.
I might not buy such a wine, if I know that stuff beforehand. But once it's in my glass, and I like it, I'm not going to unlike it. That would be hypocritical.
However, there is a whole category of stuff I could learn about a wine that would make me unlike it, and all of it has to do not with winemaking, but with farming.
If I learned a wine was made from vineyards heavily sprayed with herbicides and/or pesticides, I would unlike it.
If I learned the winery washed its chemical waste into a river, I would unlike it. If the winery abused its grape pickers, I would unlike it. (This could also apply in a winery but cases are rare.)
If a proprietor bulldozed pristine forest land to plant the vineyard, I might unlike it, depending on the story. And I confess, I'm enough of a wine geek that if I learned the winery grafted over 100-year-old vines of some native variety to, say, Chardonnay, I might just unlike it.
Here's a heavy implication. Writing about wine, I want as much accurate information as possible. But what if there's a story like this? The winery would be better off not telling me.
So what would you do if you first liked a wine, then found out that how it was made goes against what you believe in? You're a hypocrite one way or the other: either you forswear your palate, or your beliefs.
I told you it was a tough question. Terry Hoage still hits hard.
How would you answer it?