The BIG IDEA: A Wine Archive

It’s a BIG Idea; the kind that is beyond one person and demands the attention of many. But it’s an idea that’s time has come.

I’ve been thinking about the recent fire at the wine warehouse in Vallejo, California. In doing so I’ve been unable to get one thing out of my mind: something very important besides bottles of wine were lost and destroyed. History…and its critical artifacts are what were lost. I’m not denigrating the importance of losing current and future vintages, nor the impact that this loss is going to have on producers. Rather, what’s on my mind is the loss of the historic library wines from a number of producers that can never be replaced. I’m thinking, there needs to be a repository for this kind of history, a history in which wines largely define the culture, society and people of a particular region.

What I’m thinking of is A WINE ARCHIVE.

For regions like Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, Russian River Valley, Oregon and others around the world it is the growing of grapes and the making of wine from those grapes that largely define that area’s history, culture, society and people. It’s a unique kind of history that deserves preserving. It would take significant funding and probably only work on a regional level, but it is the kind of BIG IDEA that should be considered by right thinking people who believe that history is still something that deserves attention.

Only because it is where I live, let me describe the idea of a Sonoma Valley Wine Archive.

It would be a repository for every wine every produced using grapes grown in Sonoma Valley. It would be a place where each wine is deposited, carefully stored and logged by every imaginable category: producers, grapes used, vineyards used, winemaking methods, price, amount produced, release date, distribution, winemaker, vineyard manager or viticulturalist, date of harvest, everything. One bottle of every wine produced would be archived in the Sonoma Valley Wine Archive (SVWA).

But it must be more than this. It must be a location where the history of Sonoma Valley wine is on display. It must be a mecca for wine lovers. It must be a source of scholarship on Sonoma Valley wines as well as wine in general. It should be a publishing house. The SVWA should be the sponsor of seminars and conferences on wine, winemaking, wine marketing and wine history. It would be a location where current release Sonoma Valley wines are always poured for visitors. Exhibits and exhibitions would rotate constantly. A huge map of the Valley with it’s current vineyards and wineries as well as historic, lost and ghost wineries and vineyards would be on display.

While the SVWA would generate income, it would most certainly need to be endowed and supported by sponsors as all cultural institutions are to one degree or another. Fundraising would play a key part in the administrative tasks. And most certainly an institution of higher learning would be involved. What would be needed to get it off the ground would be millions of dollars in seed money, cooperation for locals and cooperation from Boards of Zoning and City councils. There would be some sales involved in convincing all these groups that the project was necessary. But I’m convinced that some enlightened region, set on preserving its history and cultural story could pull it off to the benefit not only of its citizens, but to the benefit of the American wine industry.

Every day a major wine region goes without its own wine archive, history is lost. And it nearly goes without saying that the publicity value for a region that embarks on this kind of cultural project is practically inestimable. Simply declaring that the regions wines are worthy of preserving, each and ever one of them, is a declaration that the region’s wines are of great importance for historical and cultural reasons.

A WINE ARCHIVE’s time has come and the warehouse fire simply underscores this fact. Yes, it would be a monumental effort. Yes, it would take huge amounts of funding. But usually this is what’s necessary to create something of real importance. It’s a BIG IDEA…but it’s the right Idea.

Posted In: Culture and Wine


4 Responses

  1. Deena - October 20, 2005

    I like the Italian word, “enoteca.” The literal translation is “wine library.”
    It’s a wonderful idea, though I’d suggest archiving more than one bottle whenever possible.
    As it happens, tonight I was at a wine bar that calls itself

  2. tmz_99 - October 22, 2005

    A sound idea, but what are people going to do? look at the pretty bottles? stick needles through the cork, extract a little and analyse the chemical composition of the wines?
    Wine, like many alcohols is ment to be drunk, and winemakers, although they all want to make a great vintage don’t want their wine to sit around on a shelf for a hundred years, they would rather a group of people drunk it and remembered the good times they had with it.
    How about a database encompassing reviews, etc? I’m sure it’s been done before however, something similar to the archive.

  3. Tom Wark - October 22, 2005

    First and foremost it is a repository for not only the wine’s created in a region, but the history, culture and society of the regional wine industry. what might be taken in by visitors at the wine archive is limited only by our imagination. But if it were up to me, the wine archive would also be a scholarly institution, publishing house, associated with a university and a gathering place for those seriously interested in advancing our understanding of the region’s wines, winemakers and winemaking.

  4. Mark - October 22, 2005

    Hi Tom-
    Sounds like something that needs to be discussed on the air. Care to do so? Sometime in the near future—a couple of weeks or so?

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