The Sweet Spot…
You know it when you find the sweet spot. It just feels right. Like hitting a tennis ball in the center of the racket as it makes that perfect “pop” sound or swinging the bat as it meets the ball with a “thwack!” Or accelerating out of the apex of a turn in a way that puts a smile on your face - and elicits screams from your passengers.
The first known use of the phrase “sweet spot” was in the 1883 novel “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson when John Silver states: “this here is a sweet spot, this island — a sweet spot for a lad to get ashore on. You’ll bathe, and you’ll climb trees, and you’ll hunt goats… Why, it makes me young again.”
Ah, but in 1883 “sweet” was still a luxury and the very word connoted visions of ease… the sweet life. Sugar was rare in the pre-20th century world, but even so, we craved it. We learned as hunter gatherers that sweet fruit provided instant energy and if it was that good, what if we concentrated the sugar in that fruit by drying it, or juicing it? Yum! Later, during the very beginnings of agriculture, we learned how to ferment the sugar of grapes to create a beverage for the heart and soul. Even later, in the northern reaches of the grape growing zones, the fruit would freeze on the vine and those industrious vignerons would pick the frozen fruit, press the concentrated sugar nectar from the grapes, and make a wine that both warmed the soul and sweetened the disposition… a dessert wine that had happy levels of sugar and moderately low alcohols balanced by good acidity.
The sweet spot of the past was a wine that captured the essence of perfectly ripened fruit, fruit that would have been stolen by birds or animals before humans would have been able to harvest or would have rotted before making it to market. It preserved the fruit character at its apex of ripeness.
But now sugar is cheap and commonplace. Most of us were weaned on sugared drinks and snacks. Every coffee house has jars of sugar on counters, spoonfuls of which are free for the taking. Our sugar meters are calibrated differently than our forebears and, unfortunately, more of it is needed to impress. So, if excess is what impresses, where is the sweet spot today?
I will confess that the first time I tried a “super sticky” dessert wine, I was impressed. The sweetness knocked my socks off. But as I tasted more and more sweet wines, I found that high amounts of sugar alone no longer satisfied. What I wanted was balance, something that tasted like ripe, crisp fruit…
There is a point in the cycle of a growing season when the vine no longer supports the ripening of the grape. It shuts down and the only thing that is occurring is dehydration or rot, hopefully the noble kind, removing water and concentrating sugar. However, what is being lost is acid and it is acid that makes a wine crisp and refreshing… even a sweet wine.
So, in my contradictory world, the sweet spot is more ethereal… it is the intersection of physiological and sugar ripeness… a point of libration as sweet is balanced by crisp acidity. Like biting into an optimally ripened crisp apple or peach right from the tree on a cold fall morning. This is my ideal sweet spot.
Sex, Truffles & Pinot Noir
There are two things in the culinary world that are almost as satisfying as sex: truffles and perfectly aged Burgundy, um… I mean, Pinot Noir. But sometimes it’s difficult to know the real thing when chatter, created by our virtual, over-amped, “turn-it-up-to-11” conditioned society, obscures it.
A chef once told me he used truffle oil to exaggerate the flavor of real truffles because his customers complained the dish without the oil did not have enough flavor. That complaint might be viable if the chef used the lesser Summer or Chinese truffle, but not the elegant Perigord or White truffle.
The irony is that there is no truffle in truffle oil, yet we think its flavor is powerfully rich and decadent. Occasionally, pieces of Chinese truffle float in the oil to make it look like an infusion - but it rarely is. Instead, it’s usually a synthetic compound that combines thioether (2, 4-dithiapentane) with an olive or grapeseed oil base. Thioether is similar to ether except instead of an oxygen atom, it has a sulfur atom. Sounds yummy… gives new meaning to the expression, “a knock out dish!” People have come to associate and confuse the exaggerated, overzealous aroma and flavor of truffle oil for the real thing. Robert Chang of The American Truffle Company says the greatest threat to truffle farming is truffle oil, because people expect the blatancy of the oil and no longer appreciate the subtlety of the real thing.
Recently, Maria and I celebrated our anniversary with a simple white truffle pasta dish. The main flavors were from the truffle and Parmesan cheese. It was elegant and subtle… perhaps too subtle for the chosen wine that was showing a bit too sweet. Now we didn’t open a “sweet” wine per se, but this particular Pinot Noir, an expensive, highly regarded wine, was picked ripe, had relatively high alcohol and left us with a perception of fruity sweetness. So we dug deep into our stash and found an orphan bottle of our 1988 Pinot Noir. This was only our third vintage and we were still figuring out our style. When this wine was released, it was hard with tannin, high in acidity, low in alcohol and had a subtle raspberry/cranberry, tea-like aroma and flavor. The youthful version of this wine took some time to show its potential, yet it was incredible with this dish - a full twenty-five years after it was produced!
I have been fortunate to be the recipient of dumb luck. My father planted our original Pinot Noir the old-fashioned way. We tasted wines and, when we found one we liked, we went to that vineyard to take cuttings to plant in our vineyard. Much has changed since those innocent days. Back then, there was an industry-wide inferiority complex that those early Pinot Noir cuttings lacked the “oomph” associated with high quality wine. It wasn’t unusual for those early Pinot Noirs to be blended with Petite Sirah for intensity of flavor and color - but the manipulation didn’t stop there. Wood chips or planks were used to give the wine the sweet vanilla flavor of toasted oak. Then, about the time that our 1988 wine was made, vineyards were being replanted with what some vintners thought were superior clones of French Pinot Noir. These clones ripened earlier and produced wines with more intense aroma and flavor, higher alcohol and a perception of sweetness. They received high scores that resulted in more being planted… but that was not good enough. People picked riper and added acid. Some bled off juice to concentrate the juice-to-skin ratio, making the wines more intense. They sometimes even put it into a centrifuge to reduce the alcohol from these powerful, overripe wines… and somewhere along the way; some people lost their taste for elegant, subtle, and perhaps even earthy, Pinot Noir. They wanted Pinot to “knock you out!” I’m surprised that no one has yet added a little trioether to give it an exaggerated earthy, truffle “pseudo-terroir” note.
There is an old saying that the further we are from nature, the more we lose our natural taste. Or to say it another way - once we accept artifice as reality, can we regain our ability to recognize and appreciate natural purity? I am encouraged that there is a growing backlash against “overdone” wines, yet the most popular wines continue to be very ripe and sweet, with relatively high alcohol that hits you over the head. I guess there is a place for those wines… just not at the table paired with a subtle white truffle pasta dish.
That dumb-luck, combined with stubbornness, saved my beloved elegant, understated Pinot Noir. Those early “inferior” cuttings (that we now refer to as heirloom selections) turned out be the right selection for the climate. We just had to learn how to grow it well and keep our manipulative hands off it… to trust it for what it was and let it be what it is.
One Vineyard - Two Grapes
I think all my smart devices are making me dumb. These days, when I sit down to write, I get an irresistible urge to check Instagram for a “like” fix… It’s as though I’ve become a lab rat, choosing cocaine over food, but in this case it’s the instant gratification of a “like” response over the quiet satisfaction of the written word. Sometimes we’re better off with fewer choices… a simplified set of parameters that allow repetition and refinement. The modern world offers up so many options, it’s easy to be intrigued by the next shiny object, distracting us from the inherent beauty of what is and leaving us yearning for what could be.
RSV has a small piece of land behind the winery where, for the past twenty-five years, we’ve been growing Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. We farm it organically with biodynamic principles. All input choices are natural and revolve around cover crops, compost, or what’s left behind by the sheep. We have no reservoir, so the vineyard gets very little water. Here, there is no instant gratification, but a long term investment: we observe how each year imprints itself on the fruit as well as the finished wine and, if necessary, make adjustments for the current season and a mental note for next year’s improvements. On harvest day, the grapes will travel from the hill to the cellar where they are transformed from fruit to wine. Decisions are made based on observation, with a focus on expressing what is there… not someone else’s ideal of what a Napa wine should be, but what’s best for this piece of land and the unique weather of the vintage.
One vineyard, two grapes, and the same winemaker for twenty five years - these three things allow a rare degree of focus and a consistency to pursue a pure, distinct expression of Cabernet Sauvignon - a refined wine of simple elegance that is unlike any other “New World” wine. It’s a wine that deserves some attention.
It’s déjà vu all over again. Skinny ties and tight suits are back “in.” I’ve seen this cycle a few times in my now-not-too-short life - first when the Rat Pack seduced my parents generation and then when the “Mod” inspired Who exploded on m-m-m-my generation.
When the seventies dawned, ties and lapels widened and tight pants bloomed bells on their bottoms. The human silhouette morphed into an exaggerated, exuberant caricature of self - look at the Partridge Family or Brady Bunch (or my high school yearbook) to see how bad those fashions were.
Punk imploded the late seventies, hatching a back-to-the-future, faux-mod movement with bands like the Jam and the Specials turning punk into the new wave. Skinny ties and tight suits were cool again and Vespa riding mods adorned their scooters with a plethora of unintentionally symbolic rear-view mirrors. Oh, but that too was short lived. The eighties witnessed a return to bad fashion with Miami Vice shark-skin zoot-suits and big-hair that only a David Byrne/Talking Heads giant suit parody could de-rail, making way for the next generation of trend setters… grunge!
Well, the skinny tie is back. Though in a curated way. People want to be down to earth, yet fashionable. A black denim trucker’s jacket cut tight in a sport coat trim. Jeans made of Japanese fabric, tailored to fit close. It is a mash-up of what came before… a search for something authentic from the land where anything goes.
I’ve always said that RSV Merlot is not a fashion statement. It can’t be when you are farming the land and growing the grapes. It takes too long to create the wine to be a follower of trends… that is, unless you go out of your way to be trendy - but then you run the risk of one day becoming unfashionable.
The history of Merlot in the New World is actually shorter than the story of the skinny tie, but in some odd way it has parallels.
Merlot was a relatively unknown upstart, living in the shadow of Cabernet Sauvignon and looked upon as a blending grape when, in the early nineties, it took center stage. At first it was seen as an elegant counter point to the more tannic and green Cabernet Sauvignon of the time. But it slowly began to believe its own press. Merlot producers latched on to the buzzwords of “soft,” “lush,” and “unctuous,” and learned that Merlot could be planted in marginal areas and manipulated to fulfill pre-conceived notions. As the nineties became more exuberant, the wines did too until, like David Byrne wearing the giant suit, Paul Giamatti uttered the now famous cinematic Merlot slur and suddenly, no one wanted to be seen with a glass of Merlot in their hand. Excess killed the grape.
However, excess also did the grape a favor. Since Merlot lived and died the trendy life, it fell off the radar. Those chasing the market had no choice but to rip up their Merlot vineyards and plant something that might be producing in time for the next trend. But those committed to the grape (with vineyards in select regions that produce elegant, untrendy Merlot) stuck to their guns and soldiered on… focusing their production and their skills to make classically proportioned Merlot that they wanted to drink.
Perhaps RSV Merlot is more like fashion than I want to admit… yes, it’s a timeless classic.
The Agrarian Worker…
Aries terroirist tendencies
As California grape growers, we are spoiled. Compared with our French, German, or even Oregon friends, we have idyllic weather. Little gets in the way of our ability to bring in a great crop. We historically experience no hail, rarely any rain, and very little pestilence during the growing season - but there still is risk. The ideal can encourage complacency, leaving one unprepared for those years when nature changes its rhythm.
Every year offers a unique set of challenges, but 1989 was our first experience with a truly difficult vintage when the skies opened up during harvest and the rain came down. The entire valley was atwitter with technology-based solutions. Restaurant suppliers and grocery outlets could not keep sugar in stock. (In this country it was, and still is, illegal to add sugar to wine so we’re still trying to figure out where all that sugar went.) Some, more law abiding, winemakers chose a technologically challenging, yet legal, remedy. They picked some of their fruit early, had it concentrated, then added it to the fermenter weeks later with just-picked fruit. Others chose the dramatic, flying helicopters low over the vineyards to “air dry” the grapes, timed to go airborne when the local Bay Area news crews appeared.
Critics outright declared the vintage a failure, essentially destroying the marketability of the wine. It was anything but that - the vintage just had a different character than the sloppy, sun-driven wines that garnered high scores before; that is, unless you tried to turn them into something they were not meant to be.
Our solution to the pre-conceived notions of the ’89 vintage was not to barrage the wine with tech, but rather to let it be itself, a lighter more delicate Pinot Noir. We then created a new label we called Aries.
We figured the wine was good, it was just stylistically different than what people had come to expect from Robert Sinskey Vineyards. In later years, we would dust off the Aries label whenever we had a lot or two of wine that did not fit stylistically into the blend, or when we were figuring out the character of a new vineyard.
Now that our vineyards are mature and we’ve refined our selections and varieties to best express terroir, we no longer have as many “outlier” lots of wine. But sometimes, the weather forces our hand. Since we do not “manipulate” our wines, we have to make choices and let the grapes do what they are going to do. Then it is up to us to select what lots should go into which wines.
Aries has grown up and lost some of its whimsy in exchange for gravitas. It sports a new label based on an ancient etching that reflects a wine with a more grown up character, richer and more full bodied than our other RSV Pinots. It is also more satisfying at a younger age. It is a true California Pinot.
In Babylonian times, the constellation Aries was known as “The Agrarian Worker” - this seems appropriate for this wine, as its character is defined in the vineyard.
THE PERFECT CIRCLE…
Birds, Bees and Pinot Noir!
The diving pelican elicited shrieks of joy as it crashed into the pacific. The large, pre-historic looking bird was a rarity in the 60’s and a sighting was almost as thrilling as witnessing its dive-bomb aerobatics.
More than fifty years ago, the big bird was near extinction… decimated by the genius of our species. We humans are good at problem solving, probably too good. We have a myopic tendency to immerse ourselves in finding a solution to a singular problem before understanding how that might impact other living things.
The chain of events began with a noble purpose - to eradicate the malaria carrying mosquito and the typhus spreading louse. Typically, the “humanitarian” purpose was a means to protect our WWII era troops by protecting the local population. DDT was the solution and it was sprayed everywhere the insects lived. It was so effective that the chemist who recognized its insecticidal use was awarded a Nobel prize and the World Health Organization deployed it in its chemical arsenal. On the home front, it became so commonplace that it could be found on most farms, in our beds, and under the kitchen sink.
For a while, life was great. The good guys won the war, food became plentiful and cheap, malaria and typhus deaths dropped precipitously. Then, seemingly unrelated to all this, scientists began noticing that the pelican, osprey, peregrine falcon, and, the symbol of America itself, the bald eagle, were all in serious decline… but there were no bodies to reveal cause and effect.
As DDT increased in popularity, it found its way to the oceans, entered the food chain and, since it was fat soluble, persisted. It worked its way up the chain, concentrating, until it reached the predatory birds at the top. Instead of killing the birds outright, it thinned their eggshells so the incubating bird crushed its offspring under its own weight.
However, this tragedy didn’t enter the public consciousness until Rachel Carson’s seminal book “Silent Spring.” Carson also indicted DDT as a carcinogen. As a result, it was eventually banned for use in the United States – though, unbelievably, it is still in use in North Korea and India.
Fortunately, the use of DDT was curtailed in time for the birds to return from the brink, but this episode stands as a reminder that we don’t have all the answers.
We forget that everything is interrelated, how complicated and unpredictable natural systems are. We compartmentalize, using chemicals in our backyard to kill what ails our ornamentals, destroy pesky weeds, or kill those ants, without a thought to the larger ecosystem. It is not so much this spot use, but rather the accumulated effect these chemicals have on the environment as they run off into storm drains, mix into a toxic slurry and enter the food chain… never mind the accumulated effect these chemicals have on you and your family. You have little control over your exposure outside the home, but you do have a choice in what you purchase and use.
Recently, certain pesticides have been indicated in the mass collapse of bee colonies. The debate still rages as to the exact cause. There is evidence that it is a fungal disease, but it is believed that exposure to insecticides weakens the bee’s immune system, allowing the fungus to rage unchecked. If the bees don’t survive, the use of chemicals in our food supply will be a false economy.
Why write this in what should be a short marketing piece for wine? For me, it’s never been about just selling something… I feel as a business owner I should bear more responsibility than that. Maybe the real products I am selling are ideas… or thoughts that happen to taste good. I would like to believe we are offering guilt-free hedonism - because if something is going to be luxurious, it should do no harm.
When we called our series of limited release Pinot Noirs “A Perfect Circle,” it was more a philosophical statement - an aspirational goal - to view everything as interconnected. It is a never-ending quest to understand the impact our farming and winemaking have on an impossibly complex environment - improving methods as we go to lessen those impacts while increasing the quality of our fruit and wines. This begins by not using synthetics in the vineyard… but there is so much more.
For example, how soil structure is important for mycorrhizae and how that mycorrhizae can transport nutrients to the roots of the vine. Or, how cover crops can support soil structure and the waste of sheep eating those cover crops can increase soil fertility. Or, how increased organic content of the soil actually sequesters carbon. Or, most amazingly, how the vine can access the nutrients in this soil to create balanced, healthy fruit that can make better wine.
Off the farm, we look at ways to offset the energy used in winemaking by increasing efficiency, generating energy from solar, and using carbon offsets to defer the energy used in shipping the wine.
Finally, no matter what we do ourselves, we can’t solve all the problems on our own. If we want to keep moving forward, it comes back to educating the next generation. A Perfect Circle gives back 5% of the proceeds to educate youth about organic farming and the importance of heirloom preservation. Eventually, the goal is to develop a farm where young and old can come to learn. When, and if, this happens, the circle will be one step closer to perfection.
after a dozen years of practice!
I love my old Polaroid Pathfinder camera with its bellows, manual Rodenstock lens, rangefinder focus and Prontor shutter – it’s a beautiful example of industrial art. Then there is the ritual of using it. You first open it, extend the bellows, flip down the metal lens cap, frame your subject, take a light meter reading, set the aperture and shutter speed, cock the shutter, focus the rangefinder then move your eye to the framing finder (without moving the camera) to make sure you are properly framed, push the shutter release, pull the paper tab, pull the film through the rollers to release the chemicals, wait for the right amount of development time based on ambient temperature and then, after anywhere from 15 seconds to 2 minutes, peel off the backing and enjoy your “instant” photo… but your job isn’t done yet as you rarely get the shot on the first try so you need to assess your image for focus and/or exposure, make corrections and start over. Not only did I have to put in a lot of work for that “instant” moment, an amazing amount of science, chemistry, and industrial might went into the making of that little rectangle of magic.
I also love a dry Muscat for its high place on the pleasure meter with its instant, smile-inducing dose of spicy grape-ness. However, before the first glass cap was popped on our little moment of happiness, lots of stuff had to happen in just the right way. First, we had to source the noble “á petits grain” clone of Muscat before we could plant it in our Scintilla Sonoma Vineyard some dozen years ago. Then we grew cover crops to provide bio-mass, tilled at just the right time, grazed sheep, created and administered biodynamic preparations, experimented with picking times and fermentations for the first few vintages until we got it “right.” Then we planted some more Muscat so we could have enough grapes to fill up a small fermenter. The result is a wine that provides instant gratification… it just took a dozen years of practice to bring this instantly gratifying moment to you.
ORGIA IN ITALY… A “Dirty” Bacchanalian Tale!
Her contagious smile barely masked her iron will, a one-two combination that left me vulnerable when she asked me to meet her in Italy. How could I refuse the beautiful blonde? Little did I know her invite, offered almost twenty years ago, would forever change our lives.
Maria, then executive chef of three restaurants for the PlumpJack group, had been sent to a cooking school in Tuscany by her employers. Maria and I had just started dating and were still getting acquainted, so it was a leap of faith for her to ask – and for me to accept. Little did we know that we both had secret tests our prospective mate must pass, and compatibility during foreign travel was one.
Maria figured I could join the cooking school on the final day, arriving in time for the last group meal. Afterward, she and I would roam the land of the Romans and get to know each other. As I walked in that evening, sleep deprived and flight weary, I found myself thrust into a pack of merry pranksters, friendships forged by the kitchen fire.
The group greeted me as if I were the last soldier to return from battle, foisted a big glass of Chianti into my hand and called for a toast. Much to my surprise, the room was filled not with strangers, but with people whom I had either met before, who knew members of my family or whom I had heard of through their culinary achievements. Two from the latter category were Johanne Killeen and George Germon of Al Forno in Providence Rhode Island. George had an impish look on his face as he rummaged through the coals of the fireplace to pull a “dirty” Tuscan steak directly from the fire and on to a carving board. He shaved off the burnt parts and carved the buttery meat. To this day I still remember that beef to be the most tender, luscious, and flavorful I have ever tasted.
Feast over, we retired to our rooms for a well deserved rest before Maria and I disappeared into the Tuscan mountains in a trusty rented Fiat.
Our destination was a town about twenty minutes outside of Sienna that could only be accessed by a winding, rutted dirt road more appropriate for horses than an underpowered Fiat. The town, if you could call it that, was little more than a cluster of ancient, abandoned stone buildings with a restored barn as the only living space. The barn had a gorgeous sleeping loft, modest kitchen, generous living room, covered patio and a swimming pool that looked out on the most stunning view imaginable of the Tuscan hills.
The name of our little private village was Orgia. From there we foraged for mushrooms that Maria would turn into risotto, scampered down the mountain to visit the open markets in the city and when we got lost, our mantra was always “further”… we just kept going until we discovered something or found our way again. We relished our freedom, even while we subtly sized each other up, figuring out if this thing we were doing was going to work.
Tonight, we come full circle. As I write this missive, we are off to dinner at Al Forno in Rhode Island with George and Johanne to enjoy their “dirty” Tuscan steak and to toast with our first release of Orgia.
you’re either on the bus or off the bus!
It was an outstanding day in the field last June. While the thermometer danced in the mid-80’s, 150 people enjoyed wine, conversation and dinner by Spruce chef/partner Mark Sullivan and his crack culinary team. The venue: A long table in one of the avenues between the Pinot and Merlot blocks of RSV’s OSR Vineyard in the Carneros.
The event was organized by a group known as Outstanding in the Field, founded by self confessed slacker/chef/artist/surfer dude Jim Denevan who stumbled upon the idea of taking the party to the farm some 15 years ago. He is now the leader of a moveable feast – a roving troop of vagabonds in an ancient bus who conduct up to 90 dinners a year on farms throughout the country. A veritable Keseyan journey of believers whose mission is to enlighten all who venture onto their path.
“Now, you’re either on the bus or off the bus. If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again. If you’re off the bus in the first place-then it won’t make a damn.”
What is amazing, besides how great the events are, is how successful they have become. Tickets for these farm dinners sell out in minutes… guests at our event told me they had to plan to have no interruptions at the moment the tickets went on sale because if not purchased within a few minutes, the events would be sold out. It’s the culinary equivalent of landing tickets to a Grateful Dead concert back in the heyday.
It appears we have a quiet revolution going on…. a desire for authenticity in the age of homogeneity. Now there are a lot of people out there who are still more comfortable with something predictable and safe, but there is a growing movement of seekers who want something real, unique, and distinctive.
This attitude gives me hope. It tells me there are many restless folks who will brave the weather and sacrifice creature comforts for the experience of connecting with the farms that produce their food… this time, enjoying lamb that not long before grazed the vineyards of RSV and washing it down with wines grown in the same spot.
I would like to think that those of you who have been following the wines of RSV and my ramblings are on the bus. There might be times when you’ve gotten off, but since you’re reading this, I have to assume you’ve gotten back on. Enjoy the ride.
about nothing and everything!
I feel like a hypocrite. I talk about doing the right thing by trying to farm and conduct my business in a carbon neutral manner, yet I am writing this while flying at 35,000 feet. Then, on the home front, my kids attend school in San Francisco, belching hours of extra carbon into the atmosphere with each round trip.
I know that my actions run counter to my beliefs, yet I refuse to give up opportunity and my children’s education in exchange for a smaller footprint… but what option do we really have? We could home school our kids and live a hippie dream. We could retreat from the marketplace and only sell locally – but what would happen to our employees and our business? As romantic as it might seem to live and farm as if it were another era, we can’t turn back the clock. Our only choice is to accept empirical evidence, evolve and deploy technologies that not only allow us to live in the way we are accustomed, but do no harm in the process. The genie is out of the bottle and the only way forward is to learn from the past and embrace the future.
I wish we had electric high speed trains in this country – and a supporting network of local rail. I wouldn’t hesitate to park my car and get on-board. This is a technology that works well in Europe, Japan, and many other countries, yet the stateside version is archaic and dysfunctional. I really don’t know why it is not a matter of national pride to have the best rail system in the world. We should demand it… it needs to be greenlighted, even if it takes decades to build.
Energy needs to be sustainable, renewable and carbon neutral. Though it should be a matter of national security to ween ourselves of fossil fuel, it should also be a public health priority. Right now, oil drives the world economy and we fear what might happen to our economy if we disrupt the system. Yes, it would change… and we might find a system that is more equitable. If you think about it, the way our fossil fuel energy systems are structured, it really relies on deferred taxation. We, not the energy producers, pay the cost of the environmental degradation after the fact. We also deal with health issues and lower quality of life. I hate taxation as much as anyone but I also hate to see the damage being done by cheap fuel. If a carbon tax could be implemented, one that would fund the research and deployment of new, clean energy systems, it might be a good thing for everyone except the oil companies.
We need to support the dreamers. There are several new technologies in the pipeline that are trying to save the world - that is, if they can get established. Like any other disruptive tech, there are lots of people who are afraid of the future and want to kill off the competition before it gets a toehold. Electric cars are no longer fringe, though the naysayers do try to marginalize them. They aren’t perfect but they are getting better with each incarnation. Those with discretionary income should vote with their pocketbook and become early adopters so investors and corporate executives see the future, improve the tech, develop an infrastructure, and lower the cost so they eventually become mainstream.
I live in the Bay Area where I’ve seen the future and it is beautiful and weird! I’ve not only witnessed the interesting characters inhabiting the city but I’ve seen the Google auto-piloted car cross the Golden Gate Bridge a couple of times and all I can say is, WOW! Just think, no-driver… it just goes where you want to go. Now, combine that with the above mentioned electric car and you have a near silent, clean, collision free form of transportation. You can work, create or just plain daydream while you commute. No more dodging lane changers, no more white knuckles or road rage… and after that dinner, when you know you’ve overindulged a little too much, you don’t have to take the wheel.
What does all this have to do with wine? Nothing… and everything! If climate models are correct, we’ll have bigger problems than what grapes to plant. My business relies on the natural rhythms of nature. Grapes, particularly Cabernet Franc with its narrow comfort zone, will be an early indicator of that change. Though they might continue to produce fruit, they will no longer be able to create the elegant, vibrant style of wine we have been producing for nearly thirty years. Our way of life is at stake, but my concern is with the health of agriculture in general and what it may mean to everyone’s way of life if we don’t take responsibility.