Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Making Wine to Help Save The World
I started growing grapes and making wine in 1987. It was at the advice of a friend that if I was living in the Napa Valley, I should know everything I could about wine. So it was that year that I also volunteered as free labor on a crush pad and now 23 years later I have become fully immersed in the craft, education and business of wine.
Though I no longer live in California, I still tend around 60 vines in 6 different varieties. My basement looks like a mad scientist's laboratory at times and at harvest my garage does too. The French have a couple of terms for grape grower and wine maker and home wine maker. "Vignon", is the term used for one that grows the fruit, manages the vineyards and makes the wine. "Garagiste" is the term for one that makes small scale wine in their garage. I think I fit these two definitions.
As so many hundreds of other Americans, I started a fascination with yeast and the entire fermentation process. I would ferment anything that had a specific gravity or Brix level. Some good, others really bad. This experimentation of all things sweet got out of hand at a point and I realized that as a hobby, I was over the top. So I stopped my beer brewing, mead making, spirit distilling, and liqueur blending practices. I settled in on a few varietal grapes I like to grow; found a blend of both white wine and red wine that I enjoy and now focus on two wines per year.
This week, preparing to blend, rack and bottle, I thought of so many people I know in commercial wine production and wondered if this is how they started too. I thought that maybe if I reach a level of confidence in my garage practices, I could take it to the commercial "cult" level. I thought that if my friends and family like my wine, and I continually place in local competitions, what's stopping me from slapping my cult label on the market place as well.
Then I thought that this was ego talking. Really, does the market place need another wine label? Maybe the fun of my hobby would lose its appeal and like so many other professions started with passion, burn out due to loss of the "fun" over the needs and demands of the business. The one thing I am certain of is that I am doing my bit to save money by making my own wine. I am helping the environment by recycling used wine bottles and I am building a diverse educational foundation for my kids by exposing them to the practice, (they have all been to crush since they were 5 yrs. old). At the very least inspiring the beauty of Agriculture, Biological and Chemical Science and a little Philosophy in in their educational upbringing.
It was a good bit of advice I received 23 years ago. Who would ever think Viticulture and Enology could save our economy and planet except a passionate grower of grapes and maker of wine.
Posted by George Parkinson at 6:55 AM