Robert & Maria Sinskey
Maria & Robert Sinskey
Reflecting on the beginning of his 20+ years at Sinskey Vineyards, Robert said, “I learned a lot. Chefs didn’t care what Parker said about a wine. They were looking for wine with old world sensibilities and new world precision. We didn’t want to impose our will on the land and it all worked out…”
In 1994, TB travelled to France with Sean Sant Amour, André Tamers and Robert Sinskey. It was the start of TEW, when they first met Christian Bernard, Luc Perrin and Cécile Dusserre. “We slept on the floors of different apartments in Paris,” said Tom at last week’s Sinskey dinner. “Half would get in the car and half would walk,” added Robert. “For the people in the car, it was the only sleep we got.”
“Here we are, 18 years later,” said Tom before a table of 28, “who would have thought…”
“It’s been a long friendship, as well as a working relationship,” added Robert as he smiled from the front of the room. With a slideshow of the Sinskey’s vineyards, farm animals and cellar playing behind him, he raised a glass while Maria–a published chef of world renown– stood in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on the dinner that she’d been preparing for the past twelve hours.
Maria preparing a dish of lamb that the Sinskeys had raised on their farm
An organic and biodynamic farmer, Robert is a firm believer that ‘artisanal winemaking begins with the care of the land’. “I hate the pretense of wine,” he told us. “Points are a fashion statement. We decided not to grow a republic. The whole idea was to meet people and to have a good time.”
Converting their vineyards to organic in 1991, Robert then worked with winemaker Jeff Virnig to incorporate biodynamic techniques. “In the early 90’s,” said Maria at our Domestic Tasting a few weeks back, “Rob and Jeff tried to shovel the soil and had to use a pic axe. There was no life in the soil. Jeff said we could try [biodynamics] but that if it didn’t make better wine, it made no sense.” Working with Amigo Bob in 2009, they then planted cover crops, started spading and breaking up the soil and composting, but they avoided tilling the earth. After they fired their farm managers Rob and Jeff started researching Rudolf Steiner and biodynamics. “Farming is unnatural,” added Maria. “Once you disrupt nature, nothing is natural. We wanted to be stewards of the land…we live there.”
“We had heirlooms in the beginning,” said Robert, speaking of the time before phylloxera arrived to their vineyards in 1998, “then it became an arms race,” in regards to the use of clones. But “food was a driving force for us,” added Robert, “Danny Meyer was one of the first customers for us. It was an affirmation that we didn’t need to make wine for the masses or for Parker.”
In 2001, the Sinskeys made the best Chardonnay that they’d ever made, and then they started ripping up the vineyards and planting Alsatian varietals, because they didn’t want to end up with fat and flabby wines. “Napa was all about hitting you over the head,” said Maria. “But we’ve [since] seen people coming back to what we’re doing–restrained, low alcohol, old world wines. The American market has matured to realize that overblown wines are not what they want. People are looking for something more balanced and sophisticated.”
Balanced and sophisticated, like the meal that Maria served us, like the Sinskey wines that we drank that night. We love what you do Maria and Rob! To them, we raise our glass.