Sunday, April 22, 2012

From Tuscan to Texan in less than a week

I wasn’t sure how long it would take for Jacopo Bacci to fall into Texas, but as expected it took less than a week. Sure the weather has been great, and places like Dallas, San Antonio, Houston and Buffalo Gap were struttin’ their finest stuff in front of the young man. And so it goes, Jacopo has been snake-bitten by life out West; and that’s a very good thing for Tuscany and for Texas.

It’s not easy for a young man in Italy, or anywhere else in the world, to try and fill the shoes of his forebears. And when it’s a tall order, it’s even more challenging to walk up to the big tree and shake it. Jacopo is like any other young Italian man, who looks out over the Italian landscape with all of the challenges that country is facing, and tries and make sense of one’s life. Many have gone before, so the theme has been trodden a time or two; the path is well worn. And every single one who walks down that road has to deal with the uncertainties and difficulties and challenges. That's life.

I drove past the Bacci estate last month on my way back to Milan. The large Bossi tree on the estate that is a landmark in the area was wilted. It is in the last throes of a long life. Soon it will become a hazard to those who are near it. The tree could fall on the building or people. The cycle of its life sees it returning back to the earth, hopefully soon.

And so it is with the wineries and the farms and all of life. And while Jacopo’s father Marco is still very vital and relatively young, there is something about Tuscany that compels one to see beyond one’s own generation. Planning ahead 50 – 100- 500 years. One needs only to look at the Antinori family and see the vast display of their patrimony over the past 600 years to realize that it didn’t just happen. There was a plan.

The Bacci family estates are relatively new, but there is a sense that Marco has seen what will be coming. And for every father (and mother) whose sons (and daughters) are involved in the family business there is that delicate line between pushing their children into a business and welcoming them into it with open arms.

I’ve seen this played out countless times; witnessed disasters in family succession plans. I’ve seen the older generation holding out so long the younger generation so emasculated into their 40’s and 50’s so as to render succession a lifeless wobble. And I’ve seen others who have guided their children and grandchildren into the positions with patience and wisdom. An estate is bigger than the ego of one person. And for those who have the insight and can peer into the future as well as the past, there are necessary decisions. And in the case of Jacopo and his father Marco, I’m feeling pretty darn good.

Of course the young generation has to have a work ethic. And a drive of their own. They cannot just have the keys handed to them; they need to learn how to drive it. But they also do not need someone telling them their every move. I know, I keep harping on that aspect.

A week in Texas, his very first time, and we’re getting to know this young man better. When he stepped into the West Texas sunshine, so tall and so proud, in his boots and his Levi’s and pearl snaps on the Western shirt and that bigger-than-life Texas belt buckle, it didn’t come off as just another funny costume. It felt like a rite of passage. Part of the succession plan, sometime in a future which will get here sooner than any of us want it to. But I think this young man is ready. Now that he has been dipped in the magic waters of Texas.

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