The answer is that I didn’t do exactly the same thing.
Last night I was at a reception for a very successful Napa Valley winery. They make Cabernet, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Once upon a time one of the Cabernets got a perfect 100 point score. I went into the tasting thinking, “I’ll have the Sauvignon Blanc, that can’t hurt me too much. “ I really thought that. I sipped on the Sauvignon Blanc. It was pleasant. It wasn’t overdone. The oak, if there was any, was way in the background. Any grassy effects were complimentary, not extreme. The alcohol was in balance. It was a perfectly good quaff.
I moved on to the Chardonnay. At that time I was talking with folks, mingling, not really thinking about the wine. But the one thought I had was, “Wow, these folks have really dialed down the oak and the alcohol. This wine is actually pleasant to drink!” At that time one of the family members got up to do a little welcome talk. I knew her original winemaker; he is a Napa Valley legend. Since then they’ve had another winemaker. But the news the owner brought was that a new winemaker was transitioning in and the current one would be transitioning out, in the next five years. “We know a winery needs young energy. Our parents are handing the winery over to me and my sibling. And likewise, we have to hand the winemaking over to someone who will be making the wine for the people who will be drinking it.”
It was said in a room full of salespeople and I’m not sure many in the room got what she had just said. Thanks to having been in California a few days before and still on “California time” I surmised this very successful winery knows they changes that are brewing in the New California and they don’t want to be left behind.
And during my weekend on the floor of two sister Italian restaurants, I saw the young servers embracing the revolution, being agents of change, in concert with California and Italian winemakers. And it’s not just those two places either. In France, in Germany, you name it, even Argentina and Australia. Everything is changing.
This is what happened last week on my first night in Oakland. Two fellows came in, meeting another two gents. Boy’s night out. Everyone was supposed to bring a special bottle. I saw one bringing the quintessential Super Tuscan, 2007 Sassicaia, and a 2001 Brunello from a small estate. At first I thought it odd they’d bring a bottle to a place that has such an outstanding wine list. And then I thought, “Gee, why doesn’t this happen more often in Texas?” California is produce-supportive. It seems right, coming from a state that feeds much of the country with its lettuce, tomatoes, fruit and much more. Why not support a Tuscan grape farmer in California?
The wind-up is they also bought several interesting bottles that we were featuring that night. They weren’t into excluding Sicilian wines at their table. They were celebrating. I was a little bit jealous of their access to these experiences.
I’m in. I’m all for the revolution. I’ve seen them coming from Italy and France for some time now. And with the wave coming from California, maybe being in little ‘ol Texas, change-adverse, painfully conservative and stubborn as a worn out mule, just maybe the convergence here in flyover country will cause change to happen for the better. Whether my Texan neighbors and colleagues are ready, well that’s another thing. But one thing is for sure: Everything is changing - and here it comes.
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