Posted by: David Stewart | June 1, 2011

What if I had stained my feet purple?

I was looking at our back yard the other day; it’s not a big lot, but there is a little slope there. I wondered if I could plant a small number of grape vines there and try to see if I could train them to produce some grapes.

And then it struck me: why didn’t I go this way in the first place? When we moved to Oregon in 1984, we could have figured out a way to buy property in the Willamette Valley and plant wine grapes. Wine making seems akin to baking bread, so you should be able to produce something that wouldn’t kill you by following some basic rules. Had we done this, we might have been wine producers today, rather than consumers of other people’s products.

As interesting as this sounds (and there are certainly others who have gone this route), there were a stream of other things which occurred to me:

  • No matter what we planted in the 1980s, it would likely have been the wrong grapes. Back in 1984, we mostly enjoyed Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Riesling. Although these were popular back then, they are not so popular now.
  • Even though early Oregon wineries were producing Pinot Noir, it was not a wine we really enjoyed at the time. And Pinot has only become super popular in the last couple of years. (Thanks to the movie Sideways)
  • Likely then, any money we put into growing grapes and making wine would have been a total loss. I really respect wineries who picked the right product to produce and have refined it over time. But in fact, this is pretty rare, and the results might be a total loss.
  • I think I have been pretty responsible and hard working in my chosen career (technology and management). Unfortunately, given my personal track record, I sadly conclude that anything that is not my vocation is something I don’t stick with over the long haul.
  • As much enjoyment as wine brings me, the reality is that alcohol addiction is a real and pervasive social problem. I don’t mind consuming a product responsibly and I have no problem abstaining from my own drinking if it would cause someone to else to stumble. But how in the world could I invest my life in producing a product which contributes to destroyed families, loss of work and health problems? I don’t mean to judge anyone at all producing wine, after all I am a willing consumer. But it would be really bad to have an attack of conscience about my work.

So I’ll be content to stare out at my back yard and think about growing some grapes, and very grateful for the direction that life is on.



  1. Gewurztraminer is not popular now? Huh. I guess I always have been a bit against the grain of what is considered popular.

  2. I remember some terrific Sokol Blosser Gewurz from back in the 1980s that were spicy and wonderful with, for example, Chinese food.

    Today’s it’s hard to find such a Willamette Valley Gewurz which qualifies. Tastes seem to change, and Pinot Gris is the most popular WV white. Go figure.

    For example, one of our favorite wineries, Belle Pente have a nice 2006 Gewurz for sale today but they can’t obtain the grapes any more, so it’s probably their last Gewurz.

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