Gary Eberle and the Making of Modern Syrah
S Y R A H ’ S P R O U D F A T H E R • 81
Also attending that year was a young winemaker from Australia named Brian Croser.
Croser is now one of the eminences on the Australian wine industry; in 1971, he was a
young recent hire at the venerable South Australia winery Thomas Hardy and Sons.
Upon hiring, Croser was promptly shipped off to Davis for intensive technical training.
He was there just three months, after which he went to Europe for more training. He
represented a winemaking culture and tradition that was
wine producers organization is known as Les Vignerons de Franschhoek, and
they participate in Bastille Day celebrations, which tourism publicists have revived. In
fact, there is no evidence that more than one or two of the Huguenot settlers had any of
the winemaking skills van der Stel had hoped for. Most had been cottage farmers or
unskilled laborers, few with any signifi cant connection to winemaking in their native
country—although a third or so of them seem to have had occasional employment as
vineyard laborers. This has not prevented a romantic legend
it is also easy to read when you want
to track from one set of facts to another. It takes lots of information to
understand wine. History, grapes, winemaking, terminology, geography,
and critical review all come into play in the wine choices we make. And so
do a variety of information sources. This book does all of that and more
for California wine.
A B r i e f H i s t o r y o f W i n e i n C a l i f o r n i a
California wine history is short compared with Europe’s, but it has moved
very quickly over time, and it is helpful to know how California got to
character, and what could he do to avoid that fate? When
did he need to step in, and when did he need to get out of the way?
John Buechsenstein had similar concerns over the course of his long career as a win-
emaker and wine educator in California and elsewhere, whether in the old vine fruit in
the MacDowell Valley in Mendocino County, or the estate plantings at Fife, Phelps, and
other places, and not least in his last ambitious winemaking venture, the Sauvignon
Republic Wine Company, where with Paul Dolan and John Ash he parsed out the
nuances of Sauvignon Blanc
Parker’s influence is so great that many wineries have styled their
wines into what he calls “hedonistic fruit bombs” simply to please his
palate. Why does one man’s palate decide the winners and losers in the
world of wine? Why are consumers at risk of confronting a sea of
undifferentiated wine? In a word, politics.
Critics and commentators widely acknowledge the importance of the
growing area and winemaking style in creating what ends up in the
bottle. But, more than wine consumers realize, politics matters, too.
Politics determines not only which grapes grow where
This history is a first attempt to tell the story of grape growing and winemaking in
the United States from the beginning and in detail. Now that winegrowing in the
United States has succeeded so brilliantly after long years of frustration, and now
that it is beginning once again to spread to nearly every state in the union, it seems
to me particularly fitting that the many obscure and forgotten people and their
work lying behind that success should be brought out into the light. It is also in-
structive to see how many names celebrated in other
ingly integrated. Retail store shelves in the United States and other nations
are now fi lled with wine products from all over the world. Large multina-
tional fi rms that source grapes and produce wine in a variety of countries
have become important players in world wine markets. Joint ventures
between wine fi rms in different countries are proliferating. Winemaking
consultants, called fl ying winemakers, assist in directing wine producing
across the globe, spreading innovative new vinifi cation techniques and
advances in technology. Australia
omissions, the act was further weakened by an exception allowing heads
of families to make up to 200 gallons annually of “fruit juices” exclusively for consumption
in the home. The language of the provision was obscure and contradictory, but as we
shall see, its effect was to license home winemaking.
Another exception allowed the production of alcohol for “non-beverage” purposes.
Mostly, this meant the large-scale production of alcohol for industrial uses—in paints,
solvents, and chemicals, and in the manufacturing processes for textiles, rubber goods,
artisanal producers. Second, California makes the most wine of any state in
the United States, and it has done so throughout the twentieth century until
today. California’s Wine Country also most closely approximates European
viticultural regions, with a set of winemaking traditions, including wine-
makers who articulate terroir as a mode of thinking and doing influencing
their everyday practices. Third, significant tastemakers and taste producers
are engaged in celebrating the bounty of the region, including its unique
tastes. This includes a dynamic group of
reason that each of them is included here. John Abbott’s
Washington winemaking experience began at Canoe Ridge in the mid-1990s; Caleb
Foster spent eight years at Woodward Canyon prior to founding Buty; Mike Wade is an
experienced grower with a great vineyard site and a natural gift for winemaking; and
Charles Smith is, well, Charles Smith.
Bottom line: nothing in this book took more of my time and attention than compiling
this list of the Top Twenty. Like any list, it can be challenged, argued over, or picked apart.
But as I look for the leaders in terms of