Needed: The California Museum of Wine
Reading this story of Jim McCormick's private museum of wine antiques and ephemera in Petaluma, California, I am reminded of the dismay I hold for the fact that California has never made an effort to memorialize and celebrate its second most important industry (after moviemaking): WINE.
There is no California Wine Museum. And there should be. The history of winemaking in California touches on so many overarching themes that define California from immigration, agriculture and technology to tourism, innovation and culinary trendsetting.
And yet, as Mr. McCormick points out, there is no such obviously justified celebration of this key California industry.
Of course, we seem to live in an age when public expenditures on a museum would seem to many as an extravagant and unjustified waste of money when we can't even fully fund our schools, fix our roads, keep our state parks open or fully execute on the state's healthcare initiatives. Those many would probably be justified in this opinion.
But let's proceed from the perspective that California and America will, at some point, regain its mojo, return to its economic glory and with that return enable the people to celebrate and memorialize greatness. And lets proceed from the the premise that celebrations of civic pride take commitment and provide benefits. Let's acknowledge that celebrations of great achievement and exposition of defining characteristics bond us as a people and remind us that striving is the underlying requirement for progress.
And it's not as though the State of California has not previously committed to funding educational institutions that celebrate the state's defining character and achievements. We have the Railroad Museum; the Museum of History, Woman and the Arts; The State Indian Museum; The State Capital Museum; The Mining and Mineral Museum; The California Military Museum.
What would a California State Wine Museum hold and how would it hold it?
Most certainly it would examine the immigrant experience and wine as French, German, Italian and Portugese among other national groups so contributed to wine's early history.
A Wine Museum would certain portray the way the popularity of California wine increased through international competitions to the Paris Tasting to increases in quality.
The evolution of the wine label would be a must in the California Wine Museum.
A Winemaker & Grapegrower Hall of Fame would occupy a wing to celebrate the individuals who moved the industry forward.
I imagine the Museum would contain an Historic Wine Vault that kept bottled examples of California wine history that is regularly added to with new vintages from various regions.
The separate wine regions within California must be documented to display their differences and uniqueness.
Certainlly our State Wine Museum would include a living repository of important grapevines.
And, as an adjunct to the State Wine Museum, wouldn't it be appropriate to designate certain vineyards across the state as State Historic Landmarks? There are a variety of still operating "ancient" vineyards that are unique testaments to the history of the California wine industry and still provide us with cherished wines.
The list of what might be included in a State Wine Museum is probably too long to list. The same is true of where such a museum could be located. Any number of regions would seem likely centers for the museum, including the Napa Valley, which unfortunately was unable to support the now gone Copia: American Center for Food, Wine and the Arts.
Though the justification for a California State Wine Museum is unquestionable, the issue is money and will. Succeeding would take a monumental effort of a few devoted people who understand the value of such an endeavor. Meanwhile, the endowment required would likely have to come from a variety of people with the means to support its construction. Both these requirements are, sadly, unlikely anytime in the near future.
Still, what a bold and wonderful and justified idea is The California Museum of Wine. Petaluma's Mr. McCormick has the right idea. His own collection would be a worthy part of such a place. And it's something of a shame he does not have the resources to open his own collection to the public.
Perhaps…one day…in the future such a plan will take off. It's a deserving plan.