Just south of Lodi the freeway passes by what could be mistaken for a petroleum tank farm surrounded by miles of old vine wine grapes planted in the endless, flat and khaki-colored, sandy soils. A series of 40 foot high metal tanks connected by gangplanks and guard rails stands gleaming dully in the central valley heat, and one would be forgiven if they expected to see the name of a large oil company on the sign out front, instead of the cheerful logo of a well known wine brand.
Not far down the road, on the secondary highway leading to Yosemite, quaint fruit stands fronted by colorful boxes of fruit and veggies beckon from the roadside. The impulse to stop and load up is blunted as you recall the many fields surrounded by sickly orange patches of vegetation you passed on the way down, a by-product of large scale Round-Up weed control.
One is reminded of how fortunate we are to live here, in the Willamette Valley where organics is widely practiced and industrialized food systems are shunned. The Lane County Farmer’s Market never looked so good.
Same for a bottle of honest, small production artisan wine made from organically grown fruit and with little intervention and no manipulation from the winemaker. Unfortunately, the vast majority of wine sold in the world today is industrially produced, and without genuine provenance. It is ginned-up from focus groups, board rooms and marketing teams. It is simply another “drinks product” loaded with industrialized yeasts, artificial coloring agents, enzymes, and God knows what else.
On the other hand, authentic wine is a product of the long culture of a place and the people who live there. It is part and parcel of the local agricultural milieu, and it speaks of where it comes from with subtle voices of sun and rain, and soils and the hands that raised it. Authentic wine always pairs beautifully with the local cuisine and it often has a long and storied history and reputation. Sometimes it’s quite obscure and not widely known.
Authentic wine is not always a “natural” wine as strictly defined by the fundamentalists that always seem to coalesce around the latest wine and food fad. That’s the beauty of authentic wine - it never goes out of style for those who value fidelity to a place and a way of life, and who like the idea that their hard-earned wine-buying dollar contributes to the continuation of that tradition and to that community.
In short, it’s great to be back home, in a community that values authenticity and quality - and at such a great time of the year. This Saturday I will look out my door at all the happy people at the Lane County Farmer’s Market with even more appreciation than usual, and toast them with an authentic, artisan wine.