Give Me that old-timer Wine
Bob Sylva has written a wonderful little story in the Sacramento bee about that group of "old-timers" who are still alive and kicking today and still engaged in the wine industry. They are that remaining cadre of gentlemen who kick-started the California wine industry after Prohibition ravaged the industry and left it nearly dead.
When I first started working with Foppiano Vineyards’ Lou Foppiano would arrive like clock work at the winery every morning. He was 75 years old. His son Louis ran the day to day operations of the winery as he does today, but not out of eye-shot of his father.
The elder Lou is and was a curmudgeon, a status he’d earned. I can’t count the times I’d arrive at the winery to talk business, go over marketing and PR and encounter Lou. However, every single time I did arrive at the winery he’d say the same thing to me: "What the hell am I paying you for." It really didn’t matter what was on the agenda or if he and I had any business to go over. His greeting was always the same.
But after I responded, as I always did, "to get you riled up, Lou," he would be willing to talk about things that very few other people in the industry had the ability to get into: the experience of watching a vineyard mature over the course of, literally, decades.
Lou was no romantic then, and isn’t one now. In fact, very few of the wine industry’s oldest members take the romantic view of the industry that many of today’s younger, more enthusiastic and poetic winemakers have. You see enough of something, feel the hard work of more than 50 years resonate in your bones and muscles and have a perspective that fuses the romantic side of the industry with the hard realities and you become a realist about the industry.
I recommend Sylva’s wonderful article to those who want a glimpse at the history of the CA industry and to those who still have not tempered their romantic views of the wine industry with a bit of realism.