Don’t tell me what it is.
Rather, tell me what it’s not.
Because what it’s not is exactly what it’s all about around here.
Specifically, here is Rolling Bay, where island resident Brian Pilliod recently celebrated the grand opening of his new shop Kinsfolk Wine (10255 NE Valley Road, next door to the courthouse), which offers exploratory-minded imbibers a variety of natural vino from a slew of diverse locations — potent potables of particular province, one might say.
“These are all, in essence, handmade wines,” Pilliod said. “And I think that’s one of the main differences between natural wine and commercial wines, for many of these wines it’s a malleable process of making the wine.
“It’s not necessarily we pick on this date at this time and do these things to the wine to make it taste like this. It’s more what did the vintage give us and what’s my interpretation of the site? A lot of these sites are things people have either resurrected or focused on where there isn’t a big commercial interest.”
Even a cursory Google search for “natural wine” will return a myriad of definitions and opinion pieces (like any other topic online, there are fierce factions), but generally everyone agrees truly natural wine is farmed organically and made without adding or removing anything in the cellar. No additives or processing aids are used, and altering the natural fermentation process is kept to a minimum.
“There’s a transparency and a holistic approach to the farming and a transparency to the making of the wine,” Pilliod said. “One of the issues with natural wines is that people define it by what it’s not. There are no additions … there’s no yeast or there’s no inoculation or acid powders or filtering that happen, and those things are all true and they’re all really good but the real definition of natural wine is that it’s something that’s alive even in the bottle.
“It’s something that transcends the place it’s from … and identifies with the terroir of wherever it’s from but also identified with the people that made it.”
The people who made it are a big part of the draw for Pilliod, who comes to retail after a career in New York City as a wine distributor, after first working in the art world, where he fell in love with the craftspeople and unique process behind small-batch natural wines.
He and his family have lived in Rolling Bay for nearly four years, after having moved from the Big Apple to California and then northward to the Rock.
“I was very interested in the collaboration within how people were building portfolios, what they import,” Pilliod said. “And also the aspect of the people behind all of these wines.
“A lot of the parallels I was drawing when I came into the wine industry were — I was a printmaker by trade and worked and collaborated with a lot of artists — so the more I learned about wines of places like these the more I started to learn the people making it and the places they were from.
“None of these wines are trying to achieve any status outside of being the most authentic thing that can come from the place that they either live or the vines they love to work, no matter what those things are. I fell in love with that.”
Bottles in the shop range in price from $14 to $70, with about 80 percent of the inventory priced between $15 and $30.
Kinsfolk Wine is open from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and noon to 3 p.m. Sunday. Visit www.kinsfolkwine.com to learn more, or pop in for a visit and maybe derive your own definition of natural wine.
“For me, supporting wines like these and making it so that people start to define it by the pleasures of these things and how different they might taste and how interesting they are, and how dynamic they are, is the most important part,” Pilliod said. “And also the fact that they’re made by human beings; that they’re made by people who work every day to try to pull these things out.”