Thoughts about Mentoring from Mike Little
One of the wonderful things about winemaking is that every vintage is a little bit different. Each
harvest has characteristics that may be unique to it and can be different from any other one that we have
ever done. Every winemaker has some knowledge, experienced ones have quite a bit of knowledge and
every single one would say that they have been challenged at some time during each winemaking
season, no matter how many seasons they have seen. Experience is an essential part of the process.
One of the unique attributes of most winemakers is that they are always willing to discuss the art with anyone
else who is interested. No matter what level or how many awards or ribbons a winemaker has, he or she is
always willing to share any information that might help another winemaker to improve.
We all become mentors of a sort.
The Purple Foot is dedicated to the sharing of this knowledge and the improvement of each
winemaker’s skills. The program helps us to formalize the exchange of knowledge and provides
our members with access to the people who might be able to help with any particular issue. Yes, you
will receive a lot of opinions because every winemaker develops them and there are a lot of
routes to the final goal. Along the way, though, there are a lot of good solid facts and techniques that can
A mentor is not just someone who will evaluate your wines and give you information. The mentor is also
there to discuss what you have learned, exchange ideas and hear your input. New winemakers have as
much input as more experienced ones and while we recognize that there are no perfect ‘right’ ways to do
something, there can be a lot of wrong turns. We want to help avoid those turns and help to create
good, quality wines more quickly. After all, we usually get just one chance a year no matter what we
are making. It can be a long year if the wine doesn’t turn out well. We can lose a lot of friends and family
along the way.
The pages inside this section serve several functions. We have added a Frequently Asked Questions page
to start you on your way. It is a list of as many of the common questions that any winemaker might have.
Hopefully the answers will help as a beginning. Some of the answers might be “Well, it depends”. In those
cases, we refer you to someone who can help further.
We are compiling a library of lectures, topics, books and even creating some short videos to show how to
measure acid, make wine, finish it and even improve it. This will grow over time and if you have a
suggestion, or want to contribute, please do! Finally, there is a page of with phone numbers of
people who would love to discuss your wine. If you have specific questions, each person does have
certain special subjects, like fruit wines, Northern grape wines, blending, finishing. They are a big part
of our collective knowledge base and we all learn even if we’re supposed to be teaching.
Welcome! And here’s to making great wine.