Sticky Bud Vs. Wine in Humboldt County
I spent three years in Humboldt County, that (way) Northern California county best know for its world class dope. (I have a good story about Humboldt dope that comes toward the end of this post). I was there in the mid 1980s studying History at Humboldt State University. It was where I lived when I discovered my passion for wine. Yet the entire time I never once tasted a wine from Humboldt County. Now, it seems, there are enough local wineries for it to declare itself an "Emerging Wine Region". Dude! That is so awesome!
The only winery I was even aware of when I was studying at Humboldt State was Fieldbrook Winery. It’s still there and producing some beautiful wines. But I hope I’m forgiven for not thinking much about Humboldt County-made wine as I began my initial serious study of wine in between hacky sack and History. I was more interested in discovering just what all this talk about BV Special Reserve, Beringer Private Reserve, Ridge Monte Bello, Chalone Pinot Noir and Matanzas Creek Merlot was all about.
Humboldt is a fairly remote region of California, even compared with places like Anderson Valley, Potter
Valley and other far flung, but now fairly well known, growing regions. The County is large and offers a very diverse set of climates where grapes might grow. Closer to the coast, where I spent all my time, it’s much cooler, while inland it can become very warm…too warm. But more than anything that makes me believe that Humbolt could indeed be an up and coming region for wine is the the price of land. It’s far less expensive than anything Mendocino and southward. FAR less expensive.
As with every region, it seems one would have to carefully choose where they want to grow grapes, but as as the growing number of wineries in the County demonstrate, the diversity allows for a variety of grapes to be cultivated.
The first story linked above seems to hint at the idea that the region is quite suited for organic grape growing and hence organic wines, a winemaking trend I believe is going to explode:
"The natural environment lends itself to the emergence of organic
wine making, as well, Lorenzo said — which several vintners have
already implemented in their wine-making process.
“They’re really committed to the fully organic wines and process in
addition to growing organic grapes,” she said of such wineries as
Coates Vineyards and Old Growth Cellars."
Unless you’ve got some severely crappy soil, I can’t see why nearly any region isn’t suited for cultivating grapes organically. That is to say, the above statement doesn’t make a lot sense. However, it’s the CULTURAL environment in Humboldt County that truly lends itself to organic grape growing and winemaking. I have never lived in a place where so many of the inhabitants were committed, at such an early point, to "green living", conservation, off-the-grid lifestyles and tie die apparel. I’ll admit that the constant exposure to what I affectionately came to call Hippydom often gave me the Heebie Jeebies, a condition that is alternatively known as tydyphobia: a fear of waking up with tie die patterns tattooed on one’s chest.
Be my fears as they may, it appears that in short order Humboldt wineries will have their own website, promotional materials and a set of wine tastings to kick off their attempt at being discovered. But…what if this area’s winemakers all made a commitment to doing things the organic way?
Is there another region anywhere in the world that is know as the "Organic Wine Region"? I don’t think so. Would it be of tremendous benefit to cultivate this image? I know so! It is exceedingly difficult for any wine region to create or develop for itself anything like a well defined image, be it for a particular variety of wine, style of wine or anything else. The Organic Image is wide open and Humboldt wineries should grab it. It will take a concerted effort for Humboldt County to replace its image as the source of California’s best dope with an image for making great organic wine. But I think the effort is worth it.
I left Humboldt County the day after I graduated. They only reason I stayed for the Graduation Ceremony was because my mother wanted to come up for the ceremony, presumably to confirm that the occasional checks in the envelope that helped sustain me were in fact spent on an education. I’m not an anti-environmentalist or anything, but one has to be of a very specific mindset to live amongst the crunchy set. I wasn’t of that mindset. San Francisco was much more my speed, a continuation of my study of History awaited at SF State University and there was also much more opportunity to find new wines to try in The City. So I left….very, very quickly, partly out of fear that I would wake up and find myself wearing Tie Die—which, by the way, I can proudly say I never wore on my body in the three years I lived there.
But I’m ready to revisit Humboldt, or more specifically, its wines. I’ve decided to make a special effort to find a number of them and see what they have beneath the cork. If I can somehow turn my current somewhat negative feelings toward Humboldt County into something positive due to their wines, then I’ll be able to check off one of the items on my "things to fix" list.
Oh, and about Humboldt County dope. The first time "The Guy" made his regular rounds of the dorms with baggies of pot to sell (he’d return regularly on a weekly basis), I knew nothing about Humboldt grown pot. I asked, "how good is it?" The Guy took a big old bud the size of my palm out of his baggy, looked at me with his sunken eyes and then threw the bud at the ceiling of the my dorm room….It stuck. It stuck for a good ten seconds. The stuff became known as HSB–Humboldt Sticky Bud.