“Make it new!” — Ezra Pound For as long as I’ve been thinking about making fine wine I’ve always been intrigued by the question of how in the New World, in California specifically, one might find one’s true and lasting place on the global stage. In the last forty years California wines have been particularly […]
I am saying goodbye to Le Cigare Volant, at least to the wine that I’ve made in a certain, distinctive style for so many years. It’s just a wine, of course, and presumably for as long as I continue to ply my trade, I will make other cool wines, maybe even a few ultimately far more […]
It is a pleasure to be here today to talk about wine packaging and labeling, a subject I never imagined I’d be qualified to talk about, but something about which, like it or not, as an entrepreneurial winery owner, I’ve been compelled to try to master. I started out in the wine business with the […]
Harvest is wrapping up here as we take in the last of the Alta Loma Grenache, which seems to be this vintage’s giving tree. Not to worry though, as the unanticipated excess will go into our next vintage of Vin Gris de Cigare, which has been continuously a vintage sell out. In the broader […]
We are getting set to launch a fairly ambitious crowd-funding initiative in a few short days,1 which will allow us to continue to establishment a very unusual vineyard, Popelouchum, as I call it, in San Juan Bautista. I haven’t really made the scope of this project much of a secret, but I’m thinking (and hoping) […]
I’d like to share with you some of the things I have learned in love, these many years in the wine business. When I entered the business I was just a naïve kid who wanted to make great Pinot noir, because, well, you know…. (If you don’t know, Pinot is incredibly difficult to do well […]
I became a winemaker and winery owner some thirty years before seemingly everyone else on the planet decided that they wanted to become one too.1,2 Apart from not particularly welcoming the rash of competition, it has been fairly easy for me to attribute slightly less noble motivations to the arrivistes than I imagine I harbor […]
I’m very interested in the work you are doing to breed disease resistance into vinifera grapes, and understand that it takes multiple generations of breeding to breed out the off- flavor characteristics. Tell me again how many crosses you typically need to do to breed out the undesirable flavors. (I seem to recall reading that you need […]
I grow tedious in continuing to reiterate that the great conundrum in the wine business – at least for those among us who think of ourselves as serious – is that you really need to grow your own grapes to make a truly special and distinctive wine, but if you fail to properly identify a […]
I may have mentioned once or twice that it was during my tenure at the Wine Merchant in Beverly Hills that I had became obsessed with pinot noir, and this mania achieved full-flower when I was a student at UC Davis.1 I didn’t have a chance to taste so many Burgundies when I worked at […]
I’ve had recent occasion to meet up with a number of “old-timers” in the wine biz, guys (mostly) I’ve known in some capacity over the years and with whom I’ve chanced lately to become reacquainted, bumping into them typically at industry trade shows, and even at times in far-flung vineyards I’m sniffing out. (They, sly […]
Maybe not enough time has gone by to really breathe the deep sigh of relief that I am longing to breathe. And maybe I’m being a bit indiscreet in talking about matters that are generally not spoken about so openly. I almost lost the Doon. Not because the wines were no damn good. Really, rather […]
On (At Long Last) Planting a Proper Vineyard1 It has been a long time, indeed almost twenty years, since the tragic demise, grace Ã la maladie de Pierce, of the Estate vineyard in Bonny Doon. In the relatively short life of the vineyard, initially planted in 1980, we went through one episode of replanting – grubbing […]
On Being Incongruent1 or A Very Dry Season It has been a long, dry season.2 This is likely the driest year in Northern California for as long as anyone has been keeping records, coming off of two previous dry years; that we have experienced now only trace amounts of rain since the harvest season has […]
What do you do with your life to make it as meaningful as it can be? It has been a while now that I’ve realized that I was not cut out for a brilliant career as a medical researcher, who might potentially find the cure for a dire disease, nor, has it turned out that […]
I’ve been asked to talk about the somewhat abstract notion of “quality,” as it pertains to wine. Of course, every winemaker or winery owner thinks about or should be thinking about quality in some sense, but I believe that any discussion of “quality” should have a context and arise from a larger value system or […]
“Maybe Not Racked”1 by Syrah Mix-A-Lot I like big butts2 and I cannot lie You other winemakers can’t deny That when you taste great wine like the “Hill of Grace”3 And a lot of funked-up esters in your face you get sprung I’m talking about juice that got da funk Not the spoofulated shizzle that […]
Did a vehicle Come from somewhere out there Just to land in the Andes? Was it round And did it have a motor? Or was it Something Different? –F. Zappa, “Inca Roads,” (from One Size Fits All) It is shameful to admit, but I am no great shakes as a thoughtful appreciator of music. Most […]
It broke my heart to close the restaurant. Actually, my heart was broken many times over in the course of the life of Restaurant Le Cigare Volant, Cellar Door. We had built the most extraordinary tasting room at the winery facility on Ingallsstrasse—did you see the great airship, fashioned after Jules Verne?—after selling the old, […]
This post(mortem) is a bit of meditation on the 2009 Contra, a wine I have utterly adored (we’ve just recently sold out) but has been, in spite of very favorable press, very favorable price, and a strenuous, if not Herculean marketing effort—we really pulled out all the stops on this one—a bit of a commercial […]
Sources I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to a group of wine bloggers in Portland, OR recently – some of you may have been there – in which I reflected somewhat pensively on the state of the wine business in the U.S., mostly lamenting a certain palpable loss of innocence and idealism. The gist […]
Napa Valley girl She’s a Napa Valley girl Napa Valley Girl She’s a Napa Valley girl Okay, fine For chard, for chard She’s a Napa Valley girl In a tasting room Okay, fine For chard, for chard She’s a… LIKE, OH, MY GOTT (Napa Valley girl) LIKE – TOTALLY (Napa Valley girl) St. Helena is […]
DOMAINE DES BLOGGEURS1 I find it more or less ironic to be standing in front of you, talking about anything pertaining to the business side of the wine business, because, in spite of my notoriety as a clever marketer (or marketeer as my detractors would have it),2 I feel that these days I hardly understand […]
There is a problem, and it is somewhat unexpected, even counter-intuitive, if you will. When I blurt out to people that my company is not making any money, many tend to be incredulous. “The brand is so famous, you are so famous,” I will hear, and “the wines are better than ever.” “You’ve shrunk the […]
I’ve been a partisan of “alternative varieties” for a long time, partially because I am a non-conformist by nature, but also for two significant reasons: 1) I am convinced that so much of what has been planted in the New World is a result of an historical accident1 and/or a function of commercial expediency, not […]
My company, Bonny Doon Vineyard, is in some danger, perhaps some real danger if we are not careful, and by extension, so are my great and vivid dreams. Yes, the company has had its ups and doons over the years—a fire or two here, a plague of lethal bacterial-laden insects there, some less than favorable […]
In planting my new vineyard/garden/Eden in San Juan, I aim to bring something of real beauty into existence. But I also see it as an opportunity to connect myself to Nature—both the natural world and, more pointedly, my own essential nature.
I’m a little nervous about characterizing my quest to produce a vin de terroir—a wine expressive of a specific place—as a “spiritual journey.” Any journey must be grounded in genuine action, but whither forward?
If one is looking for true originality in a New World wine, grape hybridization may well be the most rational way to proceed. But I have some nagging doubts about the potential brilliance of vinifera hybrids, and what might really be meant by “wine quality.”
Terroir’s self-evident truth carries with it a deep, almost elemental, psychic force and resonance, and in a very real sense, terroir cannot exist without human beings to discover it, express it, and in the end, to appreciate it.
Real success in the wine business simply may lie in making real wine, and of course having the ability to communicate about this real wine you have somehow achieved.
Solstice 2010 has come and gone, and the year has started once again to wax, with an auspicious, adumbrating total lunar eclipse to boot, providing an excellent moment to reflect upon what’s behind us, and to look ahead with hope.
By amplifying the qualities of terroir, and by growing grapes from seeds, we may be able to create a real sensory paradigm shift in how we experience wine.