I was asked to moderate a panel about terroir and its existence or non-existence at the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta. The Winemaker, the Owner, the Merchant and the Author.” It was all Greg O'Byrne's idea and to make his point his gathered Robert Haas (Tablas Creek), Randall Grahm (Bonny Doon) a recent convert to Biodynamics and wine merchant/importer and now also author, Neal Rosenthal. The task was to be difficult. After all, I am far from a disinterested party. Of course place exists. To deny it is to deny that babies have umbilical cords. But where it gets tricky? Techniques that obliterate terroir and also that not every plot of land has something to express. Probably with my nature in mind, he asked Joseph Spellman, a Master Sommelier to prevent fist fights. He knew that I fully intended to have Grahm defend his use of micro-oxygenation, a seemingly harmless technology but bound to get bloody. MOX gently (?) bubbles oxygen into a wine at whim, from fermentation in cask to bottle (depending on the winemaker needs) for reasons that range from an easier way to rack or to apply a fine sandpaper to tannins. I won't go into it here at length, but I hate the technique. To quote me, "I find it robs a wine of its old age." And it like so many other aspects of modern winemaking, is one of the many new techniques that also robs a wine of its place. But even though I am feeling frisky and argumentative--and I could go on as I often do- I'm here to talk about Bob (Robert) Haas and what he contributed to this well-attended panel on terroir and whether it is a myth. The Q& A period was difficult. With good reason, some people in the audience who were in the wine industry and represent Big Brands were prickly about my existence and point of view. Then there was a regular at these wine events. I recognized his nametag, couldn't place him. Unfortunately too late, after he ran away with much of the Q&A on nonsense, I realized he was an agitator (and has a drop kick attitude on my writing) on the P***** BBB. After my realization, I became bolder. I wrenched the floor away from him and miraculously; the next question was about the definition of terroir. Haas was best prepared and eloquently so. Terroir, he said, was somewhere-ness and the popularity of selling wines by grape was its death. Varietal wines are everywhere-ness. Before a wine was defined by place, now it is defined by grape. And no wonder so many wines taste the same. I have heard this before. More than once. But through his mouth the theory bounced around in my brain like a super ball (and probably knocked a few screws loose, or maybe it was the Santa Fe altitude.) I am indebted to him for reminding me. It is true. Spellman chimed in how he hates wine lists defined by varietal. Like, what the hell is Bonnes Mares doing under Pinot Noir! For more of Mr. Haas' thoughts on terroir, check out his own blog, HERE Randall and I never locked horns. As he is a fellow Jew I was ready to use this analogy: In my yeshiva days I learned how the Technion (an Israeli institution of science) was researching ways to get around shabbos (Friday- Saturday--sundown to sundown). One is not allowed to write on these hours ( or blog, for that matter). But they developed an invisible ink that would become readable in 26 hours. Wasn't that great? Then there was the shabbos clock that allowed fellow yeshiva students to watch the Adam's Family on Friday night. Or Get Smart on Saturday night. I argued that was against the spirit of the no work ethic of shabbos and I was thrown out of class being called an apikores. (non-believer). It wasn't the first time. Micro oxygenation is in direct conflict with the whole energy concept, the dynamism and the allowing a grape to be, gestalt of biodynamics. But I digress. So there. The panel was terrific. So was the festival. I have yet to see Santa Fe. I ate at one really good restaurant, Mauka ( it's new). I chose it because I could drink (Montpertuis by the glass). The bonus was the food was mostly locally sourced and the tomatoes were real. And so was the gazpacho. And the list was not by varietal.