The pleasures of Wine

Friday, October 07, 2005
A totally off the wall topic; but since both our colleague Dr.Irons and I come from wine grape growing areas, perhaps it is time to really explore a controversial topic--not the Miers catfight, not how screwed up the democratic party is, but what constitutes a great wine. Is this contentious or what? Herewith a statement of personal, opinioniated and otherwise unsupportable opinions:

The American wine industry has forsaken the concept of terroir in its haste to be trendy--I am sorry: warm weather Italian varietals such as sangiovese, zinfandel and others do NOT thrive in cooler climes. We grow great riesling, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot in WA state--California grows the more delicate warmer weather varietals. This is almost an argument from Adam Smith: when wine growing regions grow the grapes they grow best the everyone benefits.

In fact this is increasingly becoming the case as trendy varieties are whacked by cold temperatures. Washington state grows great grapes in huge quanities across 7 appelations--although those grapes are best if they are riesling, chard, cab or merlot--the rest of the grapes are poseurs given our terroir--I look to Napa, and California to produce syrah, zin, sangiovese and warmer varietals. And, of course the Aussies and Chileans are producing wonderful wines at bargain prices.

So--thoughts on wine? thoughts on terroir? as I drive around Grant county I see 640 acres of wine grapes under production--the prospect for oversupply is wonderful which means the prospect for great buys in wine in increasing daily.


Jamie Irons said...


For someone who has lived for 25 years in the Napa Valley, and who counts several superb winemakers among his good friends, I am appallingly ignorant about wine.

Everything you are saying is, I believe, correct. Though my good friend Volker Eisele, both a fine vintner and a virtual folk hero for his work in saving the Napa Valley agricultural lands from development, always tells me that terroir, at least as classically understood, is not a concept he would apply to the Napa Valley. (He certainly would, I believe, agree with your general argument.)

RogerA said...

Dr. I--somehow I think you are being too modest as a love of wine is intensely presonal and doesnt rely on people telling you what you sould be enjoying' and your living in the Napa valley of all places should give you a wonderful perspective of what you enjoy! --and I would LOVE to hear why terroir is not a concept that would apply to the Napa valley which produces great wines.

There is a golden opportunity for all oeneophiles--we are producing far more grapes than can be turned into wine production, and the consumer for the next several years will enjoy wonderful selections.

And Dr. I: your dog is a beauty.

Syl said...

I have nothing to say about wine so this is totally OT.

I just would like to note that I spent years 4 through 8 in Napa.

I remember it so very well and our trips to Frisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the forever sunshine.

And it occurred to me the other day that my best friend, a girl who lived down the block from me, had the last name Bush.

We used to take change out of her mother's purse to get ice cream from the ice cream truck. Christy would take the nickels 'because they were bigger and it was HER mother's purse' and give me the dimes. I knew the dimes were worth more, but I never told her that. :)

Knucklehead said...

We who make but plebeian demands upon our wines have no voice. Sigh... I expect nothing from wine other than that it be aperitive and aplenty