To Lord Tyrion Lannister of Meereen, advisor to Daenerys Stormborn, The Unburnt; Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and of the First Men Queen; Queen of Meereen; Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea; Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons:
I am writing to offer my services as oenological consultant to your recently announced project, The Imp’s Delight. You mentioned that this has long been a dream of yours. I also dream of making wine on the continent of Essos. Allow me to enumerate my recommendations for extracting potential from the land and capitalizing on market forces to build a successful and lasting brand. I know you to be extremely wide-read, so I will reference my own lands and culture freely with the expectation that you have at least a passing familiarity with our traditions.
You do not mention whether you have engaged in any serious site-scouting; leave that to me. As your advisor I would of course survey land surrounding Dorne—known worldwide for its viticultural treasures—but also investigate the terroir of your current home of Meereen. Though Meereen’s desert climate may seem excessively harsh for winegrowing, I would remind you that Maynard James Keenan has achieved critical and commercial success for both red and white wines made in the desert lands of Arizona. Furthermore, the flower that blooms in adversity, etc., etc.
Meereen is slightly north of Dorne in latitude but shares its Mediterranean situation; Dorne enjoys the moderating winds, warm summers, mild winters, low seasonal rainfall, and subsequent long and even growing season that the Summer Sea bestows, while Meereen’s bayside sites, outside the city and its pollution but close enough to attract tourism, could offer respite from the heat. (You will note that some of sunny California’s coolest viticulture sites are located in the vicinity of the Bay Area). While a winery in Meereen would be more of a risk due to its unprecedented nature, there are also benefits to that approach, which I will detail henceforth.
When choosing your winery location there are other factors to consider besides climate. Dorne has an ideal growing climate, yes, but the land isn’t cheap—with its established winegrowing tradition comes prestige, and prices in accordance. You would be subject to the laws and order of the Seven Kingdoms, and while I know your faith in Daenerys Targaryen’s claim is absolute, you of all people must understand that rulers come and go and that viticulture has been affected by war, for ill and sometimes for good, since the dawn of the industry. I believe you will also find the labor slightly cheaper in Meereen. (I believe the advisor Missandei would join me in encouraging you to resist temptation to exploit this further.)
You also do not mention which grapes you would consider planting. Dorne of course has its standard offerings, and no doubt Meereen has one or two indigenous grape varietals that we could cultivate as a product of interest and unique flavor, making our mark as a brand. However, whether you decide to plant in Meereen or Dorne, I would encourage you to explore a few international varietals in the early years to test out your chosen site. After some thought, my recommendations are as follows:
- Chardonnay. While a truly ubiquitous grape, Chardonnay is adaptable and would hardly fall subject to botrytis bunch rot or frost damage in your climate. Note that it grows with success in the continental regions of central Spain—much more hot and dry than a bayside site. Depending on how much you want to bring your Lannister heritage into your marketing campaign, oaked Chardonnay’s golden color could be of additional value, but it is also relevant to the golden hair for which your Queen is known. Garnering the favor of the head of state is never a bad idea.
- Garnacha. Essentially the Tom-Hardy’s-lips-in-Mad-Max of wine, Garnacha (known elsewhere as Grenache) offers juicy red fruit notes, low tannin, and spicy notes, and shines brightly at higher alcohol levels. Note its success in Sardinia and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. You can blend this grape or bottle it as a single varietal.
- Sangiovese. The treasure of Tuscany is well-suited to game meats, hard cheeses, and other cuisine common in Meereen, and it achieves greatness in decidedly hot weather with proper vineyard management. Its name, Italian for “the blood of Jove,” echoes the hard-fought battles of your past.
- Zinfandel. If you’re going to get Grey Worm to crack more jokes, you’re going to need a nice 15% ABV Zinfandel with its dried, sun-ripened fruit and peppery notes. I would advise against entertaining any requests to make a rosé wine from this grape.
As for a winery slogan, I would point out that your fine quip, “That’s what I do—I drink and I know things”—is already being sold on t-shirts.
You mention that your wine will be quite small production, only available to close friends. Many celebrity winemakers start out this way, but the name recognition that they enjoy makes wider marketing all too tempting. My advice: hire someone lowborn but oenoligically educated, ideally me, to keep your product on track so that you can simply enjoy learning the process at your own pace and enjoy the fruits of the labor in the barrel room with your guests. The Imp’s Delight could put Meereen on the map as a wine destination. I await your reply with anticipation.
Very sincerely yours,
Julia of the House Burke
Chicago, IL, United States
Featured image: Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister (HBO)