Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wine is bottled poetry.

"Wine in California is still in the experimental stage; and when you taste a vintage, grave economical questions are involved. The beginning of vine-planting is like the beginning of mining for the precious metals: the wine-grower also "Prospects." One corner of land after another is tried with one kind of grape after another. This is a failure; that is better; a third best. So, bit by bit, they grope about for their Clos Vougeot and Lafite. Those lodes and pockets of earth, more precious than the precious ores, that yield inimitable fragrance and soft fire; those virtuous Bonanzas, where the soil has sublimated under sun and stars to something finer, and the wine is bottled poetry: these still lie undiscovered; chaparral conceals, thicket embowers them; the miner chips the rock and wanders farther, and the grizzly muses undisturbed. But there they bide their hour, awaiting their Columbus; and nature nurses and prepares them. The smack of Californian earth shall linger on the palate of your grandson."

Today, there isn't one square inch remaining of undiscovered land in the 'long green strath' of the Napa Valley where Robert Louis Stevenson once briefly sojourned. In the 1880s, when the above passage was written, wine making pioneers settling in northern California must have indeed seemed much like the gold prospectors of some forty years earlier, who came en masse to seek their very own El Dorado. Even to this day people come to the Napa Valley in pursuit of some hitherto elusive viticultural mother lode, hopefully overlooked by perhaps hundreds of like minded wine-prospectors before them, that will yield up to them alone a wine of mythic proportions - perhaps a new P├ętrus, or even a Le Pin. Search on! In the meantime, I'll sit back with a glass of Vinomaker's finest and observe their endeavours from my little, gilded corner of the valley that is Vinoland.
Happy birthday Robert Louis Stevenson.

10 comments:

Do Bianchi said...

My goodness, VinoGirl! This post is fantastic! How did you come across that passage and can you provide more bibliographical info about it?

Great post... I'm going to have to steal it! (with proper attribution of course)...

Vinogirl said...

Thanks 2B, that is very flattering coming from you. It's a post I have been meaning to write for a while, it just happened to be Stevenson's b-day today.
There is a state park named for RLS up valley, so he's pretty big in these parts. When he returned to England from America he landed in Liverpool, so it just all neatly fit together.
Steal away!

Lord Roby said...

Great sentiments.."inimitable fragrance and soft fire"...the perfect retort when someone asks why one prefers red wine.Vinogirl,I'm beginning to feel like I actually know you!!!

Leon Stolarski said...

Great post, Vinogirl - I think you may have hidden aspirations to be a writer or poet yourself!

Have you read Travels in The Cevennes With A Donkey, by RLS? If not, I can recommend it very highly. And if you can get the version which includes Laurence Phillips' guide for the modern-day traveller, all the better.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Travels-Donkey-Cevennes-Robert-Stevenson/dp/0955824737

Thomas said...

How's this one?

Catawba Wine

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This song of mine
Is a Song of the Vine,
To be sung by the glowing embers
Of wayside inns,
When the rain begins
To darken the drear Novembers.

It is not a song
Of the Scuppernong,
From warm Carolinian valleys,
Nor the Isabel
And the Muscadel
That bask in our garden alleys.

Nor the red Mustang,
Whose clusters hang
O'er the waves of the Colorado,
And the fiery flood
Of whose purple blood
Has a dash of Spanish bravado.

For richest and best
Is the wine of the West,
That grows by the Beautiful River;
Whose sweet perfume
Fills all the room
With a benison on the giver.

And as hollow trees
Are the haunts of bees,
For ever going and coming;
So this crystal hive
Is all alive
With a swarming and buzzing and humming.

Very good in its way
Is the Verzenay,
Or the Sillery soft and creamy;
But Catawba wine
Has a taste more divine,
More dulcet, delicious, and dreamy.

There grows no vine
By the haunted Rhine,
By Danube or Guadalquivir,
Nor on island or cape,
That bears such a grape
As grows by the Beautiful River.

Drugged is their juice
For foreign use,
When shipped o'er the reeling Atlantic,
To rack our brains
With the fever pains,
That have driven the Old World frantic.

To the sewers and sinks
With all such drinks,
And after them tumble the mixer;
For a poison malign
Is such Borgia wine,
Or at best but a Devil's Elixir.

While pure as a spring
Is the wine I sing,
And to praise it, one needs but name it;
For Catawba wine
Has need of no sign,
No tavern-bush to proclaim it.

And this Song of the Vine,
This greeting of mine,
The winds and the birds shall deliver
To the Queen of the West,
In her garlands dressed,
On the banks of the Beautiful River.

Thud said...

Roses are red violets are blue if you're having cab I'll have one too!....easy peasy.

Vinogirl said...

LR: Have we met?

Leon: Thank you, and thanks for the book recommendation.

Thomas: Long-winded chap wasn't he.
I think I may have to charge you rent on my comments page for that one!

Thud: I can't imagine why the Queen hasn't made you Poet Laureate!

Thomas said...

A thud is a Thud is a thud...top that, you thud! ;)

Apologies to all the Steinnuts out there.

phlegmfatale said...

Beautifully prophetic words from the brilliant RLS. Here's to the bright lamps who pioneer a questing and joyous spirit in life.

NHwineman said...

"the wine is bottled poetry":
beauty in simplicity!