UC Davis Talk, Part 3: Freedom, Expression, and Love: A Consideration of Choice in Winemaking

The following is part 3, the finish, of a talk I gave to UC Davis Viticulture & Enology students on Monday.

To read part 1: on Freedom, Paul Draper, and Camus: UCDavis Talk, Part 1: Freedom, Expression, and Love: A Consideration of Choice in Winemaking

To read part 2: UC Davis Talk, Part 2: Freedom, Expression, and Love: A Consideration of Choice in Winemaking

Here is part 3

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Freedom, Expression, and Love: An Exploration of Choice in Winemaking
By Elaine Chukan Brown, aka. Lily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka

Blind tasting trials of the 2011 blends

just after blind trials of Ridge Monte Bello (A), and Ridge Estate (B & C) blends

Part 3: Love: Paul Draper and Principles

The first time I interviewed Paul Draper he wanted to talk with me about philosophy. What he told me was this: philosophy was what got him, and Ridge Wine, the brand and the business, to where it is today. He considers it the basis of his success. We talked about what that statement meant, and by the end what I understood was that philosophy gave him the clarity of long term vision, long term commitment, and balance. Integral to Draper’s work with Ridge, is the goal that it surpasses him. It has done well for 50-years, he has developed it to last at least another 50. The team, and company seem well equipped to accomplish that goal.

I assume most of you don’t have thoroughgoing backgrounds in philosophy. I’m not trying to suggest you have to have one. Instead, I am pointing out that what Paul Draper has that UC Davis in itself cannot give you is his own long term vision, and the clarity to follow through—his own commitment to the kind of wine he believes is good, the care to plan for the sake of long term persistence as well as brilliance, and the willingness to experiment in a thoughtful manner to ensure he makes that wine. My view is that this combination—commitment, care, and willingness—amount to what must be understood as love. And it is love that defines Draper’s work and his success. I recognize this could sound too precious, so let me give you one last example. It will be brief.

Paul Draper began making Ridge wine at the end of the 1960s. The core portfolio has remained recognizably clear—quality soils, older vines, simple techniques, a focus on structure, American oak—even with the foray into White Zinfandel in the 1980s, or the occasional trouble with brett. I was able to blind taste the 2011 Monte Bello and Estate blends with Paul recently. He and his winemaking team had already selected their Monte Bello assemblage, but they were deciding between two possible assemblages for the final bottling of the Estate blend. One version resembled a blend with the lots that had traditionally been included for the Estate bottling. The other they just had a feeling about early on. It struck them as interesting, so they decided to keep it out and follow it through the year. By the end of the tasting they’d selected the second option—the assemblage that was less traditional showed better that vintage. By being open to something connected to what they made there—it was still a Bordeaux blend from the Monte Bello estate—but different than what they traditionally did—a blend from different lots than those used in previous years for that bottling—Draper was free to choose the wine he loved to make.

Conclusion

What I want to say finally is this. UC Davis offers you the very best tools of your industry. Knowing I am standing here among you and this quality of education you are receiving honestly makes me swell with pride. But what you have the chance to gain from UC Davis itself is not enough. You are free right now to ask yourself how are you going to exercise your strengths? How do you want to apply these tools? What is it you want to love?

Thank you.

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Thank you to UC Davis for inviting, and hosting me.

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