No More Drama

November 15, 2008

(This video is only partially ironic)

 

So, I stopped writing on this site for a while.  It’s just that I’ve been so very thirsty.  I’ve written about this before, and I don’t mean to complain, but I found myself uninspired by the work I was doing.  The months slipped past and never once did I get a chance to try a sip of wine from the grapes that I’d grown.  I would work with vines and try to help them to grow well and balanced, but what become of their fruit was a frustrating mystery to me.  I might as well have been growing fucking sugar beets.

 

I had decided for a few reasons that I wanted to change things, to leave where I lived or to find a new job or something.  Even thirsty, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy the work, it’s more that I didn’t like everything a guy’s got to put up with in order to do the work.  

 

I think I’ll be able to put my finger on it after I’ve gone, but there’s something toxic in the air  here in big-money California wine valleys.  Maybe it’s that many of the fortunes behind the castles along Highway 12 or the Silverado trail were so newly minted or maybe not acquired by fully legal means.  Or perhaps it’s that wine itself, as a perceived status symbol, attracts those sorts of people who value the price of an object more than anything.  I think also that there’s a huge separation of wealth between the classes, and that the chasm allows for a certain abuse.  I also think that there’s an unhealed injury on the collective psyche of the American soul, and that for various reasons, it expresses itself in California in ways I don’t really appreciate.

 

I could be wrong, I don’t know, but whatever it is, it just seems like I’ve had to put up with a whole lot of assholes ever since I moved here.  I feel like a lot of the times people wouldn’t be speaking directly to me, but using  a conversation with me as a vehicle to exorcise some demon, or to redirect an abuse that they’d suffered beforehand.  I feel like a lot of the people I’ve worked with over the years used the workplace as a place to do act out an operatic, deeply emotional theatre.  I just wanted to work and learn and get along, but I found myself deeply enmeshed in the personal problems and mental health issues of my coworkers.

 

In the meantime, I stuck to myself and when I got the chance, drove with my dog and my tent northwards, towards Oregon, where I’d heard the hills stay green, the vines grow happily, and the state parks allow dogs.  Also, did you know there’s no sales tax and you’re not allowed to pump your own gas?  It’s crazy!

 

 

Cedar burns aromatically in a campfire, like incense.

 

I knocked on winery doors and had a taste.  I talked to people, asked around, and just wanted to see what it was like up there.  I liked it.  The air was cooler.  I was lucky.  The very winery I was most interested in had been looking for an assistant winemaker type person or a year or more without luck.  It turned out that the owners and winemakers were a very nice family, well-read and polite, and they’d love to have me back up again for a few days to see if we got along.

 

I went back to Caliornia and finished the grape harvest, harvesting grapes I didn’t spend a lot of time growing, while the grapes that I had were harvested by somebody else.  I worked a bit in a winery, but because the fruit came in maybe 40% lighter this year, they didn’t much need a part time afternoon kind of guy.  I finished the certification process for 100 acres of biodynamic grapes, a 3 year process that I’d started and have now finished, my horns well-buried, my pixie-dust dusted.  I went back up to Oregon and found out that it was true, we liked each other quite a bit and found working together and enjoyable way to spend some time.  It didn’t seem like they were the sorts of people to act out a psychodrama at work.  I liked the town, the people, and the cool feel and damp taste to the air.  The leaves were turning orange and red.  The bookstores and brew pubs seemed like home.

 

 

I took the job and went back to California and gave my 2 week notice the day after Obama got elected.  I’ll be a production manager/assistant winemaker/vineyard person at a wonderful place with a long history, older vines, and oh yeah, I forgot, great wine, amazing wine, wine that they open for you and graciously ask you what you think.  

 

Now, my last day is next Tuesday and afterwards I’ve got three weeks to pack and move my life.  I’ll be starting all over up in Oregon, not knowing a soul but for my dog, and a family that’s not mine.  

 

But have you looked at the cost of land in Oregon?  It’s not so bad, really.  It’s nowhere near as unrealistic as California.  It makes a young farm lad believe that maybe by determination and the strength of his back he might someday win a piece of land he could call his own.  

 

 

I spent last weekend at a sheep school.

 

 

I heard that there’s a whole of people who play music I like in Portland.  

 

 

Listen, the monsters and dragons I’ve had to deal with weren’t so mighty, really.  It hasn’t been anything I couldn’t cope with.  I’m not much for faith in the almighty, nor in an eternal life, but I do think that if you go looking and striving to find a way back to the Shire, you’ll find it, somehow.   

 

 

I’m still in love with the farm I don’t own and haven’t seen.  I think that I might be coming closer to it by moving up north where the rain falls.

I must apologize, I’m deeply sorry.  I’ve been really busy growing a beard, eating tacos, and nursing a bruised-up heart following a rather depressing breakup.  I was sick for a while.  There was a major frost.  Then it was unbearably hot.  I kept working, cold or hot, shivering or sweating, bummed out and lost in my own little world.  The grapes kept growing and now, you should know, the whole world smells lovely as the grapevine flowers open up.  It’s my favorite time of the year, at least in terms of smells, since all the vineyards are bathed in a heady aroma of springtime loveliness.

There was a point in my little depression where I hit the nadir.  Sick, I’d lost my voice and had a fever for a week.  I lost what little weight I’d spent a few years in the gym to gain.  My birthday came around and I spent it alone, after working 12 hours in 105 degree weather.  But then, I dunno, I got bored with feeling blue and a song welled up in my chest.  Hank Williams, you drunk fucker, you popped out of nowhere one day while I was checking petioles or spraying some biodynamic bullshit, and there I was, singing about heartbreak at the top of my lungs, echoing off the walls of the mountains around me.  Sure, I can’t really sing well, but it doesn’t matter.  A grapevine requires song.

Many people with advanced viticultural degrees will have a lot of things one should do in order to grow good grapes.  Things like deficit irrigation, or advanced canopy management, or limiting crop load.  Hey, I won’t disagree.  But I think that probably more important than any of those things, at least in terms of creating a truly sublime wine full of life-force and I dunno, truth, is that the grapevines need to be sung to by those who work with them.

Most of the guys I work with, in fact pretty much all of them, came here to California from Mexico. They’re macho cowboys who miss their women and children back home, and will often burst into song like a bird.  A bird with a moustache.   They carry little transistor radios with them to listen to their corridos and accordion-heavy love songs.  For the first few years, I couldn’t stand the music, but as my ability to understand the words grew, I came to love the music.  I mean, who the hell else can sing a happy song about suffering, about begging a lost lover on your knees to take you back.

This is the music that is played to the vines as they’re planted, as they’re care for, and as their fruit becomes wine.  This is the music that’s infused into the wine that you drink .  Songs of heartache and longing, of being an unloved migrant far from home, far from family.  But a vine needs a song, and I’ll tell you why:

A little ancient history:

Some 220 million years ago, there were no flowers.  There were no birds.  There was no song.  And then, a meteor struck the Earth.

Shortly thereafter:

Dinosaurs became birds, and:

plants learned to flower.

Plants began to seduce animals with aroma and fruit to propogate and evolve their species.  Animals began to take to the air, migrating along with the seasons, singing songs of heartache and longing.

Within a short time, maybe just 100 million years, flowering plants ruled the earth, and the grapevine that we treasure had become widespread around the globe.  Besides the meteor, the triumph of the grapevine was mediated by the power of song.  Without those songs of heartbreak and longing, a grapevine won’t fully ripen its grapes, and you, the consumer in wherever you are –let’s say its New York– won’t have that sublime experience that you’re looking for.  Your meal very much depends upon the willingness and desire of grown and macho men to burst into song like a bird.  Keep that in mind.  If the wine tastes good, it’s because a grown man with a heavy heart lightened his load by singing a happy song about loneliness and heartache.

As a vineyard manager, I take this responsibility as seriously as any other.  I understand that if a man doesn’t have a song in his heart about to burst out, he won’t do the quality work that is needed to produce a quality wine.  One of the guys I work with, his name is Albino, he was a professional mariachi back home.  He played the Tololoche, a bass, and he’ll sing at least once a day.  He’s a total badass.

And now, if you’ll forgive me, I’ve got beer to drink and tacos to eat.  There’s a banjo within reach that  needs playing.  There’s songs to sing.  Enjoy the wine, you assholes: those complex flavors you’re tasting: they cost me a rather lovely girlfriend.

Cheers!

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Monday was March 17th, a date celebrated in Ancient Rome as Liberalia. Liber was the name of an early Roman version of Dionysos, a God of Fertility and of wine.  The day was like a Bar Mitzvah for young Roman lads, and afterwards– after the procession of giant phallus symbols, the public drunkenness  and whatever it was that they did– they would switch their boy’s toga with its effeminate purple sash for an all-white grown man’s toga, and could vote and do pretty much whatever they wanted, I guess.

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On Tuesday I saw my first spring barn Swallow, returned from his winter sojourn, flying about the barn.  It is a beautiful bird, the swallow, and has been married to mankind since we first began to build structures.  I mean, jeesh, Virgil wrote about them like 2,000 years ago flyinga bout the rafters of the roof.

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Wednesday, was the Spring Equinox and as the earth was briefly balanced at 10:48 pm, the winter died and the spring began.  Persephone returned to Demeter.  It was sunny and warm and we’ve almost very nearly finished our pruning for the seasons, and have already begun mowing down and disking in our cover crops.

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On Thursday, we disinterred a batch of biodynamic horn compost- those the cowshit-filled horns we buried on the fall equinox.  We unearthed some wine we’d buried alongside them and drank the two bottles, some 12 or 15 of us thirsty vineyard workers in the shade of a fig tree just beginning to glow green with the spring’s new growth.  in place of the horn compost we placed a crushed quartz-filled horn and another bottle to drink in another 6 months.  Covered by soil, I danced my version of a Mexican hat dance over the site, and went back to work.

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And today, on Friday, I did it all again at another vineyard, but this time I was filmed by a TV crew, and I was miked and interviewed, and directed to do silly things for the sake of telling a story, and will someday, in like 6 or 8 months, be seen by those who watch “In Wine Country” (on the Bay Area’s NBC 11) and I will become instantly, incredibly, and annoyingly famous.  I will be blogged about by Perez Hilton.  I will be seen stumbling out of clubs with my vagina hanging out.  I will finally, finally be recognized while pissing in a bar.

It is a full moon tonight, and I really ought not to drink as much wine as I’m about to drink.  As the last good Friday before all my anonymity is stripped away from me, I’ll enjoy it by myself, relaxing in the silence before the helicopters descend to capture me embracing whatever starlet’s career could best be furthered by being seen with the likes of me, the famous Winefarmer.  Probably Natalie Portman, I hope she speaks kindly of me to the press after we break up.  I hope, I hope I don’t accidentally lose that tape we made drunkenly screwing each other.  I’m sorry for that Natalie.  I’m sorry for everything.

Everything is all alive again

February 28, 2008

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Spring is here, you can feel it in the warmth of the sun after the rains, and everything is aflower: the fruit trees, the acacias, everything smells swollen and fertile. The wildflowers are beginning to glow, the fertile sap of rebirth is coursing, and did you see that goddamn lunar eclipse last Thursday? A full moon, in eclipse, glowing orange on a warm night at the end of February.

The rains quickly followed, I think the final big storm of the season; we’ve had enough, thanks. The little buds on the vine are starting to swell, and did you know Columella used the word “genitali” when speaking of the buds? I like that word better, really, to think of the delicate little buds as the moist little genitals of the vine. They are kind of furry. They’re so fragile now, and while pruning and training the vine to the trellis, it’s easy to knock them off and ruin everything.

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The rains ended and it all dried out. We’re pruning still. It’s getting late, I know, but really, the danger of the spring frosts hasn’t yet passed, and though beginning to swell, the genitali haven’t yet burst with growth. Another few weeks of dormancy are left, maybe less. Each little genitali is still aslumber, dreaming of growth and sunlight and growing, dreaming of a primordial forest and a stout oak to grow up.

We came up with our own recipe for a biodynamic pruning wound paste. In includes benotonite and horsetail, and on each of the pruning wounds we paint a thin layer of white goopy goo to prevent eutypa infection.

I’m a little worried about the redwing blackbird. I just haven’t seen that many this year. and I wonder why, if they’re alright, or I’m just not tuned into their call as much as I used to be. They’re one of those birds common both from my childhood in Iowa and out here in California. In a way, I think of the redwing as a bird which accompanied me out here, and maybe there’s just some redwing blackbird party somewhere else and they’re all getting laid or something. That’s probably it. No need to worry.

Tonight I am drinking a bit of applejack, in honor of john chapman, a true American Dionysos, and my dog is asleep at my feet. Tomorrow the sun will rise again and we’ll be deep in the mustard fields of slumbering grapevines whose genitali are just beginning to stir.

More about the Moon.

January 4, 2008

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For the past week and a half or so, without much else to do, I’ve been kayaking out in the San Francisco bay with the seals and the crazy seabirds, the loons and those pelicans. Because I had the time to do that, I was paying a lot more attention to the feel of the tides. It’s true, they’re a lot higher and a lot lower when the moon is full. I’ve been sleeping out on the water in a houseboat part-time for the past year or so, but over the christmas holidays, when the full moon and the perigee coincided, the parking lot of the dock was flooded. You learn to study the tide charts but more importantly just to look up at the moon to know if you’ll need your rubber boots.

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There’s this old book I can’t find translated into English. Written originally in the thirteenth or fourteenth century by Pietro Crescenzi, or Petrus Crescentius. A section that I’ve found is seductively called “Winemaking and the Moon,” and for a geek like me, it’s like I heard about a book that may or may not teach you jedi skills, you know? A magic book. I’ve been trying to sort through all the various bullshit you hear people tell journalists, and at the same time watching the weather as I followed the biodynamic calendars and the old farmer’s almanac. I’ve been trying to figure it all out, see what’s what and what’s real.

Here’s what I think: In terms of winemaking, I wouldn’t want to rack my wines while the moon was full or new. I wouldn’t want to rack my wines during the weeks around the new and full moons. I think if the tides are high, the lees are probably a bit more turbulent, and if you’re the sort of person who’s trying to clarify your wines gently, maybe not have to filter them, you need to rack your wine off of the lees. That’s pretty much all I can think of. I don’t know what else you’d have to worry about. How did this Pietro dude write like a whole 7 pages on the subject? What’s he know that I don’t?

Okay, so, it’s raining now. A major winter storm. The houseboat swayed gentle in the wind, the ropes creaking. The tides are low. I mean, it’s almost a quarter moon I think and yesterday was the apogee, but there’s a major winter storm. What I’m trying to say is that the tides and the moon can’t predict the weather. But I’d like to know what it can tell you. I’d like to know what some old guy from way back then had to say on the subject.

I’ve got this old and maybe magic book translated into French on a PDF file. It was easy to find on the internets. That Sean Thackrey guy has a copy of it posted in his super-duper cool internet archive of medieval wine manuscripts. I’m going to post an ad on craigslist, and see if somebody would be willing to not charge me a shitload. I mean, hey, I’d love to learn French, but who has the time? Hell I’d love to learn Ancient Greek too, while we’re at it and why not the fucking , I don’t know, lute?

So if i get it translated, I’ll post it or a summary. I’ll let you know if there’s any winemaking jedi tricks in the book.

Let me explain:

1. Jean Giono

giono

If I had to choose a beginning for the path I’m on, it would probably begin with me wandering about, fairly lost with what I wanted to do, but sensing that what I was doing wasn’t what I ought to be doing. There I am, an idiot in front of a used book store, and then inside looking through musty old books for something, clues or hints, that might help me to figure out what I might want to do.When I found my first (and to this day favorite) book by Jean Giono, Harvest, I realized that the thing that I’d felt dead inside me could come alive again. As I hungrily devoured everything the guy had written (he was from Provence and lived between the world wars) I found a man expressing the same feelings inside me. In books like “The Joy of Man Desiring,” “The Man Who Planted Trees,” or “The Song of the World,” he wrote often about a denuded, depleted landscapes, farmed out and depopulated. They were places where humanity had become debased, wildflowers no longer grew, and rivers dried. A change would occur, the wind would blow, a mysterious stranger might appear, and people’s actions became motivated by love and a sense of renewal. Probably the easiest and most accessible of his books (and also the most still in print) is “The Man Who Planted Trees,” wherein an old man devotes the last decades of his life to single-handedly reforesting a deforested landscape. Springs reappear. Dry riverbeds fill with water. Flowers bloom again.

You should read it. Now.

2. Banjos

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When I got the chance to work in Provence, Jean Giono’s homeland, I left as soon as I could and never really came back. Before I left, while the French Government had momentarily lost my visa paperwork, I went to the Fiddler’s Picnic, an old-time music festival in my hometown of Iowa City. There, for $100, I bought my first banjo, a lousy old thing, but something I brought with me to France to remember America, where I thought I might not be returning. I kind of taught myself to play, filling the lavender-filled air of Provence with the poorly played tunes of Appalachia. By poorly-played I want you to know that it pretty much led to the breakup of a relationship, that kind of bad. I played it out on the terrace in an apartment in Barcelona, as all the housewives would nightly fling open their windows and bang their pots and pans in protest to the looming war in Iraq.

Later, a few years ago, I bought a banjo off of E Bay. It wasn’t really a banjo, just the stick and the hoop of a banjo once made in the 1880s, but I restored it as best I could and kept teaching myself (rather slowly) the old time music. When I finish this post I’ll take it up and play one of the few songs that I know.

I tell you this because, I want you to understand that I’m pretty devoted to this recreation of something ancient and now lost. I tell you this because I want you to know what a fool I am.

3. Jack London

Jack

I love Jack London. I’ve read nearly every book he’s written. I drink at the London Lodge, just down the street from his old farm. On his old property, now a state park, you can see a 4000 year redwood tree. People go there and ride horses. He had a stone pig farm. He raised and rode horses.

You should read “The Valley of the Moon.” It’s another one of those books about rebirth. There’s a young boxer in Oakland. He’s also a teamster, handling work horse. He meets a girl. They embark on a journey to get the hell out of city life and to find the very best place to live and grow.

They find Sonoma. It was horse and cow country then.

4. Horses

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Farmers were the first archaeologists. Plowing a field you find relics of bygone eras. Often enough, ancient and forgotten civilizations are unearthed by a curious farmer, wondering about the artifacts he finds in a field. My Dad used to find old Indian arrowheads on the Iowa corn farm he grew up on. Me, I find rusted-out horse shoes. On the periphery of vineyards I find old horse-pulled mowers, plows. I work amidst the ruins of a time when farming meant a connection between horses and men.

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Once, I went to Davis for a few days for a viticulture class. I’d like to say I learned a lot, but I’d read the textbooks, the journals, worked in the field for a few years. UC Davis is good for a lot, but what they’re best at is perpetuating themselves, making sure a nation of “winemakers” believe that without the research and deep science that is food science, good wine can’t be made.

The final lecture I suffered was from a lab guy. He’d never made wine, nor grown vines. He gave an hour-long lecture on the importance of soil testing, by UC Davis labs, in order to best understand what chemical fertilizers you ought to be using to grow your grapevines. His final slide was an old photo of a European farmer on a beautiful terraced, hillside vineyard somwhere, plowing the rows of his vine behind a horse. “Hey,” said the lab guy, “I don’t know about you, but between looking at a sheet of numbers and what this guy has gotta look at, I’d rather stay in the lab.” Mild laughter followed. I was looking at the pretty picture, wondering how nice it would be to have that as my vista, to be fertilizing and plowing at the same time without burning fossil fuels, and to get to know the psyche of a horse that well.

Now, I subscribe to the Small Farmer’s Journal, a big beautiful magazine dedicated to horse farming. I read it like a teenager looks at pornography. That is, with awe and longing. I think about taking a seminar and horse farming. I think about it a lot.

5. Biodynamics

This past Friday, I attended a Biodynamic wine event down in the Presidio. It was pretty much a press junket, and the stage was filled with 8 or ten multi millionaires who’ve paid their employees to convert their vineyards into biodynamics. The words were big. The questions were fluffy. The wine tasting wasn’t anything new. The best part was when that Randall Graham guy, the Bonny Doon dude, got into a little argument with that Alan York fellow, the one with all the hair well cared for on the cover of the Wine Spectator. They talked and talked and didn’t say much. I thought about asking the lot of them if any one of them had been on a tractor in the last year, ten years, lifetime. I thought about asking them about the heart of biodynamics, the closed system of diverse farming that requires the use of on-farm animals to generate the fertility and where the diesel came from that fueled their tractors and what maybe Rudolph Steiner might think of the use of Japanese tractors, driven by a Mexican, burning Diesel from the Middle East, or about barrels made in France, and sulfur mined in Texas. I especially wanted to ask the Bonny Doon dude why the photo of his vineyards showed clear usage of Roundup underneath the vines. That shit ain’t biodynamic dude.

It wasn’t the time or the place to have a serious discussion. These were luminaries up there, beatifically extolling the virtues of a philosophy they could afford to market themselves as.

Me, personally, I’d like to have a flock of sheep to mow the vineyard and provide meat and maybe wool. I’d like to keep a couple of small but strong draft horses around to disk the winter’s cover crops in after the sheep come through.I’d like a herd of goats to eat the forest’s underbrush so I don’t get poison ivy or burnt out during the fire season. Mostly I’d like to do it for myself and by myself, on my own and with my own two hands. None of those guys on stage could tell me how to do what I want to do: get ahold of a piece of good farmland and make it work. All those guys had made a killing in the wine trade and paid other people to do the farming for them. They had no interest in doing the pruning, the harvesting themselves. What those guys were best at was speaking, and they spoke well. They had used immigrant labor to build little empires, and who am I anyways? Just some kid who’ll do what they say if the paycheck will cash.

6. Truck

Listen, I need to do this. I need to get this done. I need money. I need to find that land and put in some vines, raise some kids, and farm. So I bought a Toyota pickup truck. A Tundra. It’s cool. I sold the ford escort for $800. I’ve been using a work truck at work still. Mine is for me, for when I work for myself.

7. My pup is named Sancho

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I bought a truck so I bought a dog. A McNab. You won’t be surprised to read that it’s an old breed that’s hard to come by. Originally bred up in Mendocino to be the perfect outdoor ranching dog, they’re good with goats and cows and children and snakes. They’ll hunt pigs and deer.

Mine, just 12 weeks old, why he’s the best goddamn dog I’ve ever seen. Smart enough to be basically house-bred already, he’s been mine now for 4 days, and for the past 3 has been my constant work companion, his head in my lap as I drive around, running beside me in the vineyard checking everything out. He’s asleep now, at my feet, tired from a long day of trying to keep up.

I named him Sancho for two reasons: one, it’s the generic name you use when you speak of the man who’s sleeping with your wife, back in Mexico while you’re at work. You send your check back home to your wife so that Sancho eats well. Now, when I speak of the black Sancho my girlfriend entertains, I’ll think only of my little pup. Two: Sancho Panza was the sidekick of Don Quixote-the original romantic farmboy who ffelt his life to be more important and noble than it actually might have been.

Soon, he’ll be big and strong and tough, but right now, he’s just a pup. With him, with my truck, I’m going to carve a little piece of the world out for me and mine. I will make a wine like it ought to be made, and I’ll live a life the way it ought to be lived. Me and my buddy Sancho, we’re going to restore a sort of something that is being forgotten about, a type of farming that’s personal and direct, a kind of wine that tastes of the soil and the stars, a kind of life that’s good and true.

Equinox, Yom Kippur, Harvest

September 23, 2007

It rained. I told you so. We farmers know these things. We also have the internet, so it makes it easier to predict.

Equinox

Today is the fall equinox. It seems like always around the equinox, at least since I started to pay attention, the clouds are a bit more swirly, and rain or hail is a lot more likely. The Earth is now balanced upright but the atmosphere is still in flux.

It’s also, or was recently, Yom Kippur. I’m a lousy jew of a jew, and instead of repenting and fasting, spent my Friday practicing the neo-pagan rituals of biodynamics: I unearthed some cow horns full of crushed rose quartz powder and buried some others filled with fresh cow shit. I sprayed a bunch of the shadier blocks of our vineyards with the quartz powder, dynamized into water.

From my recent studies of the ancient roots of the Dionysian religion, much of Jewish law seems as if it were written to prevent its members from participating in the worship of the wine god. For instance, a typical greek sacrifice to Dionysos was to boil a kid (goat that is) in the milk of its mother, something strictly forbidden under Kosher rules. Another injunction was the story of the Egyptian slaves and the worship of the Golden Calf, something intimately linked to the worship of Dionysos. It would seem that I’ve made my choice, wouldn’t it?, between the religion of my mother’s family and the spirituality of my vocation. Although biodynamics isn’t truly rooted in the worship of the wine god, it’s supposed to be some sort of rebirth of sprituality that might mimic or replace what once was practiced by the first civilized farmers for thousands of years.

That being said, there seems to have been some confusion amongst the Greeks as to the origins of the Jewish religion. In Plutach’s Convivial Questions, one of the guests claims to be able to prove that the God of the Jews is really Dionysus Sabazius, the barley god of Thrace and Phyrgia. In Tacitus’ History he writes that “some maintain that the rites of the Jews were founded in honour of Dionysos.”

So, if I were a real academic, instead of a part-time, half-assed one, I might look into the link between the Jewish and Dionysian religions. I’ve read that it’s the ancient city of Obeid that the man later known as Abraham probably left from to found his own religion. There in Obeid, the central religious compoud was formed in the shape of, well, ahem… the female genitalia in all its beauty. Poychrome mosaics found among the ruins show a company of priests at their holy task of milking cows. The figure of Dionysos was probably known better as Tammuz at this time, son of the the Earth mother and a vegetation god of rebirth and death. He had horns. The Earth mother was represented by a cow.

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It all gets mixed up in prehistory, and that’s what I love about my profession: what I do and what I think about can be traced back to the foundations of civilization. I might never really figure it all out. But I get to think about it, see how I feel about things, and enact ancient rituals of my choosing when i want.

The grapes aren’t ripening. The flavors are developing but the acidity remains high and the sugars low. the rain won’t help the thinner-skinned varieties’ tendency to develop botyritis. Tomorrow I’m picking 3 tons of Gewurtztraminer in Sonoma. Old vines we tend and tend to neglect a bit, but the fruit is delicious and makes a great wine.