oenophilia : translating the taste of wine into visual form


I love wine. It is poetry for the tastebuds. 


Its endless variety and nuances, its spectrum of different characters and distinct “personalities” are an inexhaustible source of fascination. The vast world of wine rewards sustained study with ever deeper somatic understanding, satisfaction of intellectual curiosity, and pleasure in the drinking—especially when shared in the company of the impassioned wine community.   


My paintings translate the taste of wine into visual form. This ongoing series is called oenophilia.

 

After moving from the east coast to San Francisco during the dot-com boom, I was introduced to the world of wine by a visiting college roommate in 2002. I was immediately struck by the parallels between wine and art—and began a lifetime journey into exploring the world’s wines. Learning by doing, I kept a log book of every wine tasted, saved the label from each bottle, and made notes to characterize each one and remind me where it fell on the spectrum of flavors. At first rudimentary, my notes began with basic descriptors like “fruity” and “bold,” or “grassy” and “acidic.” But over time, I came to use more multisensory ways to describe wines. For example, a 2002 Sebastiani Pinot Noir was quite well captured by saying it was “Like a rough silk scarf – smooth and scratchy at the same time.” 


Over the course of years, by comparing and contrasting flavor profiles, I developed a mental catalogue of the different grape varietals and how they differ. There’s no substitute for experience when it comes to learning how a distinguish, say, a cabernet sauvignon from a pinot noir. I had to taste them side by side to map out which tastes like what. And in so doing, I learned which wines I liked more, which I liked less. Importantly, too, I gained the verbal language to articulate why I gave a wine thumbs up or thumbs down. 

 

But I still felt limited by words in communicating the personality of wines. I wanted to employ another form of language to portray the complexities I could perceive but not fully describe. When I taste wines, I sometimes get the sensation of an almost physical form or structure inside my body, as if the wine’s particular character is associated with a corresponding “shape” as its signature. I am fascinated and entertained by how different wines result in a different, viscerally felt “signature.” 

 

Communicating these perceptions and intuitions through painting exponentially expands my ability to “speak” about the beautiful wines I discover and savor. Come share the journey!