one of the many problems that come along with retirement (or, in my case, because i drive even myself crazy when i have nothing to do, "semi"-retirement, which allows me to go find something, anything, to do with myself that will take me away from home) is that you have an awful lot of time to think. for some of us, that's not good, as it tends to bring things to the retiree's attention that will further irritate him. this happens to me frequently.
the thing that has caught my attention at present, and is irritating me a fair amount, is the unavoidable fact that the american wine industry has begun to take itself way too seriously. true enough, it hasn't yet gone as far out into left field as the french, who began entering the outskirts of the twilight zone in the early '70s (particularly the bordeaux producers), but given the fact that they had a couple of hundred years head start on the road to crazy, we're catching up pretty quickly. let's face the truth: a bottle of wine (even a very good one) shouldn't set the average winelover back to the tune of a car payment. in fairness, it doesn't seem right to lump everyone into the same pile; top-end california (and oregon) pinot producers don't seem to be as taken with themselves as the elite cabernet and merlot producers, but i have to generalize to a certain degree so that we can make a little headway. i also have to admit up front that i write almost strictly about west coast growers and winemakers, since my knowledge is focused where i live and breathe.
so, having said that, i need to clarify a couple of things before moving ahead. first, i need to bring forward the fact that i, in the company of several friends/partners, was one of the original pioneers of the california boutique wine movement (as it was known in the early days of the late '60s and into the '70s) in the state of texas, and did my fair share in establishing a market for the wines of ridge, chateau montelena, sutter home (back when they made real wines under the direction of bob trinchero), dry creek, trentadue, freemark abbey, foppiano, cuvaison, and many others, including some that are now disappeared (see gemello, yverdon, souverain, etc.). therefore, i feel entitled to express an opinion on the current state of affairs.
second, i strongly believe that we need to drag ourselves back to earth before the villagers get fed up and storm the castle. understand me: i love fine wines, and the finer the better. however, I don't like to pay, nor do I really want to see anyone else pay, a stupid price to enjoy them. a great piece of beef costs a certain number: okay, pay it. a great piece of fish costs a certain number: okay, pay it. PAY A FAIR PRICE FOR WHAT YOU RECEIVE, NOT A STUPID PRICE. cabernet grapes (and chardonnay, and zinfandel, and pinot noir, and touriga nacional, and tempranillo, and a host of others are certainly difficult to grow, and really hard to grow at the very highest level, BUT THEY ARE GRAPES. and winemakers are like chefs: they are, to one degree or another, technicians with a degree of soul, but they are not gods and should not expect mortals to consider them to be such. their work is to be respected, not worshipped. come on!
further, there are a whole bunch of other hard crops to grow at the highest level: tomatoes, apples, berries of various types, etc., but they don't cost as much as a car, ever.
so, to summarize: let's get real. wine is a food. it's that simple. some foods are more enjoyable than others, true enough, but, as in love, there's someone for everyone.
I know you're bored. so am I. so let's move on. i'll come back to this soon enough, because it's like picking a scab or hitting 60 degree wedges at the range at night: I can't leave it alone.
something new tomorrow. see you then.