Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Are We Not Drawn Onward to New Era? *

So here we are again, the harvest is completed and the new wine is in the barrel. Once more the cycle begins anew, a sequence which we in the wine business live to develop and enjoy. Already we are hearing talk about the miraculous victory of the return, the gathering of the century, the harvest of hope. The bringing in of a new dawn, the hope of a new age.

And during the daytime I am like a priest in a confessional listening to folks in the wine business go over all the sins, not of their own, but of the others.

Today in a little trattoria; a rather immense man, with an even larger ego, walks in and proceeds to sit in the table next to me and my lunch companion, an old pro who has seen it all. This large man is a small distributor and he knows not of the code of professional regard. All the wine in his beat up 30' by 70' stockroom is a small insignificant corner of a warehouse somewhere in the Midwest, forgotten by time or care. But as he has not trodden the path of the ancients, his malfeasance is to ignore the history of his trade and mock those who have paved the Via Appia so that he may pretend to be in the company of those who really give a crap.

But then again, he doesn’t dine regularly with Cicero and Seneca, so what can he know about where he is going? Like so many who think they must abjure their competition, I just laughed at his folly on my way out the door. I could pretend to be a bigger man than the whale. After all, what runs through my veins flowed through the Tiber, then and now. As we all have.

Today I saw a group of college students as they were being taken on a tour of one of the big warehouses, in for a little recruitment into our multi-thousand year old trade. How I’d love to have five minutes with them. But since I haven’t been asked, wait, this is my wine blog, I can take five minutes. Or ten.

Dear new generation looking to come into our tiny little global wine village,

If you are looking to join up to make a lot of money, think again. If you are looking for a career, well maybe you could call it that. If you don’t know what to do with your life, but if you don’t do anything you’ll end up like a character in a Camus novel. And that would be distressing to a generation that has had so much landed right in front of you.

If you are looking for a place to get a free drink on a Friday morning, you’ve come to the right place. But if you have alcoholic tendencies, this place could be worse than Gitmo for you.

If you want to travel all over the world, you missed that boat by about 20 years. Can't even make it up in coach.

So what is it that would draw you to this wine business? Not money, nor travel, nor an escape from some kind of existential ennui.

Well, let me tell you. Because I was once there on the outside-looking in. I really didn’t know what to do with my life. I had graduated from a private university and the economy was in the tank. Gas prices were high, home values were crashing, the stock market was a mess and American cars were the pits. But I remember the times I’d drive up Highway 29 in Napa and think what a wonderful little place that was. Or I’d think about the grapes I had picked in Calabria and thought how special it was to sit in a cellar at night with a bunch of cousins who I didn’t understand and they surely didn’t understand me. But after a bottle or two of wine in that musty, balmy old place, a miracle occurred. We started understanding each other. Our global village was born there and to this day I have been under the influence of a power greater than anything I could ever imagine or take credit for creating. In a phrase, I found my place. I belonged. And that gave my life meaning. Greater than the $100 million bucks one of my sad relatives probably just lost. Greater than the fame my college friend Tony once had, a friend who can no longer find it in him to return a phone call from one of his friends before he became famous ( him, not his friend). I am having a Lou Gehrig moment, and I have it often in this crazy old wine business.

Oh, one other thing – find a specialty, be it Port or Bordeaux or naturally made wine or the wines of Campania, just find a way to be seen as having a special niche. And don’t forget to love all the other wines too, for they are all part of the same energy and deserve your respect and honor.

Do that and your “career” will take you anywhere you want to go. And before you know it, you will have been in it for some time and you’ll be walking down a corridor and pass by a group of young folks on the outside looking to get in. And then the large cycle will have made its rounds and you’ll be part of the elite group of folks, from Chaldea in 1000 B.C to Suvereto in 2008.

To answer the question which started this post – Yes, we are drawn onward.

There’s something about all these old and familiar worn out faces.

*Are We Not Drawn Onward to New Era?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This, our sacred community of wine was built upon principles of passion, relationship-building and an eternal quest for knowledge. The 'business of wine' is evolving before our eyes, and our passion is becoming mired by economic issues, mergers & acquisitions and other myriad forces that are beyond our control. We must continue to fight for the rights of those passionate farmers and winemakers who require our support in order to survive. And we must rebuild the network of our wine community - the passion, the work ethic and the relationships, if we are going to take back our turf.

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