Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Andy Rooney, Vineyard Consultants, and Other Musings....

If you asked me 6 months ago whether I'd ever consider writing a blog, I would have said, "the dumbest word ever invented is the word 'blog', whatever that means". But a friend suggested it not too long ago and said I could be the Andy Rooney of the wine blogging world. Andy Rooney is wrinkled and almost dead so I'm still not sure it was a compliment but after considering it, decided it wouldn't be such a bad idea. In fact, it might be therapeutic in a weird way. Instead of grumbling to myself under my breath, I can share it with the world.

For those of you who want to follow my blog, a word of warning: I won't be doing this all the time because I have stuff to do. If you wake up to check my blog every morning, I have some advice - get a job. But if you want to know what its like to grow grapes in one of the world's greatest wine growing regions, check in with me every once in awhile.

One of the most thankless jobs, next to garbage man (or should I say "trash collector") is a farmer. Even Rodney Dangerfield got more respect and no doubt made a hell of a lot more money being disrespected. I'm a grape farmer, have been for over 30 years, and am damned proud to say it. As far as wine production goes, I'm an important cog in the wheel, but of course, not the most important cog - just ask any winemaker.

Sure, I've been doing it a long time and I've seen lots of crazes come and go: trellising systems no one ever uses anymore, plant material no one uses any more - all designed to supposedly revolutionize grape growing. Hell, row orientations are now precisely 35 degrees East of North or should I just follow the Yellow Brick Road? But the fad I don't get now is the need to hire a vineyard consultant - someone to hold hands with and sing "Kumbaya" as you walk through the vineyard.

Before I rant, let me say not all are bad. I even have some I use on a regular basis. But why do some winemakers feel the need to hire one? Consultants are a pain in the butt and they get in the way - no let me change that - they get in MY way. They come armed with reams of paper loaded with scientific studies crammed with thousands of statistics. One will tell you to water less. Another tells you to water more. Yet another says if you pick off a certain leaf, its guaranteed the grapes won't have any green flavor (huh?). Few of them seem to have spent even one day farming. How does that work??? I complain to my winemaker buddies about this all the time, but it seems they want proof that consultants do, in fact, get in the way. So I discovered the diagram below on the Internet (well, ok I made it up on my laptop) that shows scientifically how the "getting in the way" thing happens:

I also found a correlation (that's a science word) between my number of meetings with vineyard consultants, my blood pressure, and how many glasses of wine I have at night. I offer it as further evidence:

What ever happened to good, old-fashioned farming? Learn the land, learn the vines, love the results. Its worked for me for over 30 years.

Stay tuned - someone just told me tomorrow is a "flower day" on the biodynamic calendar and I feel a rant coming on.


  1. Jim, this is your buddy Rob Vincent down in Atlanta. Not a bad attempt for a virgin blogger! Ms. Bethany says hello. We enjoyed a grand bottle of your wine last night with Bob & Suzanne Salmon. We're big fans of Barbour Wines!

  2. Thank you. That was great fun to read and look forward to your bio-d rant...

  3. Jim, I'm looking forward to reading your blog. It's not just consultants that get in your way. I remember when we asked you if we could plant roses on the end of our rows. I believe you answered yes as long as we didn't mind you running over them with a tractor.

    You're not billing us for these blogging hours, are you?

    All the best,
    Randy Sloan
    Match Vineyards

  4. Are you taking the goldfish with you?

  5. Well done!

    Up here in Oregon, I wear the grower and winemaker hats. Regarding consultants, I just look in the mirror. Working so far.

    It's NOT a blog, but here is how I keep track of what's happening in my field.


    Of course, I wouldn't be a true farmer, unless I showed you my dirt.


    Ernie Pink
    Amalie Robert Estate
    Dallas OR, USA

  6. Are you saying that a farmer does not need the high holy priests, the magic temples, astrological prognostications and chicken bones to tend their fields. That is not what I was taught in school,just ask any government expert. Enjoyed a bottle of your '06 on the Fourth and we are looking forward to the '07. Hope you and Mark make it back to Elk Mountain soon. Great blog, can't wait for more.

  7. Jim, Thanks for making me laugh. I know I will never be a winemaker; I do not trust consultants and although I am a vintner, I much rather be a farmer. The dirt doesn't lie. I look forward to your next rant.



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