Posted by Adam Lee
As this is my final 2008 harvest blog, I wanted to begin by saying how much I enjoyed it, how grateful I am to Wine Spectator for providing me this opportunity, and how honored I am to have had you read my rather meandering thoughts.
This entire experience was especially meaningful to me because I actually fell in love with writing, and with the written word, before I fell in love with wine. Growing up, I read a lot. Certainly in high school I read a great deal and wrote some as well. But I don’t really remember any written word truly moving me until I went to college and one of my English professors, Colleen Grissom, had the class read Rabbit is Rich by John Updike. For some reason, this story of a frustrated middle-aged man and his search for things more meaningful in life, spoke to a college kid, and from that point forward I was a voracious reader and an aspiring writer. (Oddly enough, Rabbit is Rich was published on September 12, my birthday, something I didn’t realize until I started writing this blog.)
In some ways, it was also John Updike who began to foist doubts upon my belief that I could be a writer. After Rabbit is Rich, I took more and more English courses, enough that I ended up with a second major. I was also elected President of the English Club at Trinity University. During my senior year, John Updike visited Trinity as a guest lecturer and I hosted him for lunch. I don’t remember a lot from that luncheon, I was too much in awe, I guess, but I do recall one thing that he said. Paraphrasing what he told me: “I write for an hour every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Much of it isn’t any good, but I find that I have to write every day.” For a young man who thought that writing was a case of the Muse descending and words then flowing like wine, this revelation was quite a shock. Writing was going to be a lot of work.
In this respect, it is odd how much writing and winemaking have in common. Every vintage, all of us winemakers make wines. We work extremely hard to make these wines the best they can be, but sometimes they turn out to be simply good, and sometimes not even that. It seems to me that one of the keys for longevity and success, both as a winemaker and a writer, is to realize when something doesn’t quite measure up and declassify it. Find a way to blend it into a less expensive wine, or sell it off on the bulk market. In this challenging economic environment, it is more important than ever to make certain that the products we are all putting out there measure up.
And that brings me back around to the opportunity that I was given to write this blog. Writing a blog, even once a week like us winemakers were assigned to do, is hard work. I don’t envy the Wine Spectator editors who post their thoughts far more frequently than once a week. Quite frankly, I don’t even know that I was particularly successful in writing a “harvest” blog. Looking back on what I wrote, I didn’t tell you all a lot about the 2008 harvest. Instead, I ended up writing more about the commitment Dianna and I have made to producing even higher-quality wines and the people we have met along the way and how they have affected our lives and our view of wine and the world. I figure those type of things are ultimately more important to us, and hopefully to you, than whether or not 2008 ended up as a bad, good or great vintage.
Let me end by telling you a little secret. Before writing each of my blogs, for inspiration I went back and re-read one of the most remarkable pieces of wine writing that I have ever come across. It was printed in the pages of Wine Spectator way back in 1997. It is an interview with Angelo Gaja. Take a few minutes and read it for yourself. Certainly there’s enough winemaking detail in the interview: discussions on 3-year-air-dried-barrels and tannins in Nebbiolo. But what stands out to me is reading the legendary Angelo Gaja saying, “But our wines were probably not as very great as we believed in our heads, and perhaps they are still not great today.” What I will recall is Gaja admitting that one of his greatest mistakes was getting married and having children later in life, rather than earlier. Here's one of the wine world’s greatest and most accomplished individuals reflecting on things close to his heart, and someone captured these things on paper for all of us to share in. It is inspiring to me as both a winemaker and an aspiring writer.
In today’s faster paced world, with the demand for more information more frequently, it seems to me that it is far easier to write articles and blogs about winemaking practices, the wine market, wine pricing and scores. These are important and should be included too. But it is too easy to get caught up in them exclusively and overlook the heart, commitment and drive behind the people that make these wines. Capturing those things on paper is great writing. I don’t profess to have achieved anything as profound as the words of Gaja in my blogs. But it was what I was attempting to do, in my own way. And maybe sometimes just aiming that high is good enough.
Jason Thompson — Foster City, CA — January 8, 2009 8:07pm ET
Jeffrey Riley — Harrisburg, PA — January 9, 2009 9:39am ET
Thomas Matthews — January 9, 2009 5:34pm ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — January 9, 2009 8:35pm ET
Chris Tenggren — Elburn, IL — January 11, 2009 11:11am ET
Jim Mcclure — DFW, Texas — January 13, 2009 3:07pm ET
Dennis D Bishop — Shelby Twp., MI, USA — January 15, 2009 1:33pm ET
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