Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reversal of Fortune

Today is a really remarkable day. Yesterday I watched an image of Joe Biden and Barack Obama standing together on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial while Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger sang. There was the president-elect and vice president-elect and I couldn't help noticing that something in me, call it conditioning or an unwillingness to suspend disbelief was almost forcing me to perceive, in contravention of fact, that the roles were reversed, (not Pete and Bruce but Barack and Joe); that I should be encouraged about our society because we had finally come so far as to elect a black man vice-president. A moment later I realized just exactly how remarkable this picture I was viewing was.

Changes in society are sometimes not incremental but they never come out of the blue. It is like a big chunk of ice breaking off from a glacier. It' the sudden, dramatic visible evidence of decades of tedious pushing from behind and cumulative pressure along a broad front. A big chunk has broken off today in a very visible and dramatic manner but we should not forget either all the pushing from behind or the fact that it is dropping into very troubled waters.

So how do we relate this to wine or Hudson Valley wines in particular? Well, our terrain here is to a large extent determined by the path of a previous glacier, one that carved out the Hudson River Valley and pushed thousands of tons of Canadian soil, rock, gravel and hockey sticks down to our area here. What they call the 'terminal morraine' or the deposit of rock and soil that marks the point furthest south that the glacier reached is to found in Brooklyn, specifically it is a hill that occurs in the otherwise mostly flat borough that is the location of Greenwood Cemetery. A lot of famous people are buried here in Greenwood, including the abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, Leonard Bernstein, the famous composer and conductor, and George Catlin the famous Indian painter. There are also quite a few mobsters buried here including Albert Anastasia and (Crazy) Joey Gallo (no relation to the winemaker), Hey, it's Brooklyn.

In the last few posts I focused on 'debunking' some of the myths about wine (this in a reversal of my normal tendency toward 'bunking'). On this remarkable day, this particular day when we are looking forward, I would just like to suggest that we also look back, to remember that the wine industry in New York State today would not have been possible if it had not been pushed forward by some rather remarkable and some arguably crazy individuals, individuals like Mark Miller, Konstantin Frank and Charles Fournier and others. While the big chunk of ice has not yet broken off for us, there is definitely a perceptible cracking sound and we can clearly mark the terminal morraine where their efforts ended and our work begins. So, when it feels like things are not really moving ahead, listen for the sound of falling ice (and let's hope it is not just the sound of someone drinking scotch on the rocks at an inaugural ball, or cleaning the White House roof from icicles before the new tenant moves in).

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