tion. Careful use of language reminds us of important issues. For this
reason, I believe that we should stop using the term winemaker. My
preference is for winegrower. It better reflects the role of human agency
in the production of wines, which at its heart is a microbiological
t h e s k i l l of w i n e g row i ng . 5
on understanding and observation, not sitting back
and hoping for the best.
Terroir often speaks with a quiet voice, and
winemaking interventions can drown out the vital,
nuanced signatures of place, and flatten
throughout its pages who contrib-
uted to my understanding of wine, I have chosen my greatest teachers
for elaboration here.
No greater professional good fortune could have befallen me than
the tutelage of Patrick Ducournau of Oenodev/Vivelys, who (I dare any-
one to contest) is the twentieth century’s most important enological
innovator. His view of élevage would never have dented my conscious-
ness, however, were it not for his lieutenant, Thierry Lemaire, the
most remarkable postmodern winemaking ambassador to the English-
speaking world that can be imagined, and
proach to natural winemaking fi rmly on scientifi c experimentation and observation.
One person who knew him well was Hans Ulrich Kesselring of the Swiss domaine
Bachtobel. Sadly, Kesselring— a thoughtful, intelligent man— died somewhat prema-
turely in 2008, but we discussed Chauvet together after meeting in Switzerland in 2006.
Kesselring had worked for a while with Chauvet and produced a book based on their dis-
cussions (Le vin en question/Wine in Question [Paris: Editions Jean- Paul Rocher, 1998]).
Here’s what he had to say:
Chauvet was the heir to a family
(in American Wines and Wine-Making) sug-
gests that the Yakima Valley has “immense potential [ for] some of the hardiest north and
central European vinifera, plus some of the better French hybrids.” Outside of Leon
Adams’ celebrated work, that was the most informed coverage of Washington state wine
country less than 40 years ago!
Most of the books written since have lumped Washington and Oregon together as the
Pacific Northwest and often included their wineries as a northern adjunct to California.
They offer thumbnail sketches of recent releases and information on
dank basement smell-
ing of mold and vinegar. And I’ve had to smile and comment on murky stuff that was—how
to say it nicely?—interesting and unusual.
“Real” wine versus homemade. I’ll let you in on a secret: there’s nothing magical about
top-quality winemaking, never mind what the world’s wine experts would have you believe.
I’ve made wine in lots as small as 10 gallons, and I’ve worked in wineries that produced
thousands of gallons. At Dashe Cellars, a premium winery in Northern California, I’ve put
bunches by the ton through a crusher, pumped over, punched
in life so seamlessly that little appears to separate occupations as dis-
parate as working in the vineyard and teaching Shakespeare in the summer for his
alma mater, St. John’s College.
Early on, Eric Sims of Robert Mondavi Winery, during a serendipitous meeting
on a plane, oªered us important contacts and direction. In particular, he pointed us
toward consultant and winemaker David de Sante, who spent a whirlwind day filling
us in on the history of Napa winemaking and bringing us quickly up to speed on
new developments. Of the many people de Sante suggested we
for many of the American practitioners of
Rhône varietal wines, about winemaking, blending, about vine growing for the rapidly
growing pantheon of varieties, about ways to tease out a variety’s ideal expression. How
did the élevage for Syrah, for Grenache, for Mourvèdre and Viognier diff er from other
French varieties in California soil? What was the proper handling of these wines in the
fermenting tank? In the cellar? Most of the winemakers now taking the lead in this new
category were still woefully inexperienced, relying on intuition, good sense, and plenty
the American wine industry
by 1900. During the first half of the twentieth century, however, Cali-
fornia saw its wine industry devastated by Prohibition, the Great De-
pression, and two world wars. Not until the mid-1960s did it regain the
prestige it had lost because of the decline in its winery population and
the scarcity of winemaking talent.5
Postwar prosperity, consumer affluence, changing lifestyles, the as-
sociation of fine wine with prestige and status, increased advertising,
technological advances that improved wine quality, better-educated wine-
art of winemaking, like that of brewing, is undergoing a rapid metamorphosis
in the 20th century. As more and more of the technical details influencing quality are
brought under the control of the wine maker the art of winemaking will gradually
become the science of winemaking.
A variety of reasons may be given for this transformation. T h e scientific skills
necessary for converting the industry have only been developed within the past 100
years and are by no means fully understood today. Even where the process variables
were recognized the