Now that the wine blogging for the Times is put to bed, I am admitting to some withdrawal. There is no purpose to life. Wine is lacking. Pass me the scotch. It's been an intense ride, and much of it I've kept back from that more public forum of the paper of record. One of the reactions I've kept in the shadows is the extent of how much California perplexes me. An unseen constellation, an elusive smell, something that borders on pain and pleasure. What is true is that it is so different from me and my core I feel compelled to figure it out, to make sense. It makes no sense to me. It is an extremely beautiful state but I often feel like my own existential dilemma, profound since I had the slightest hint of stirring puberty, seems louder and more malcontent over on that coast. There, I feel misunderstood. I am sure California and some Californians feel misunderstood by me. I am back in the wonderland where I take a bite and everything gets either bigger or smaller. A friend o was invited to a 'salon of ideas' but wine and alcohol was not allowed. I don't understand. I don't understand a state that outlaws Gay marriage but brings in Obama? A state that goes all out for conservation but ignores the reliance the wine industry has on irrigation? This is Dickensian, it was the best of times and the worst of times. There they have persimmons on the tree that go uneaten. And I am happy to pluck them like a thief in the safety of the night. I am nursing my last one here, sliver by sliver, plucked from a fog draped tree in Hburg. There I feel like I am in front of the Mad Hatter who cannot understand a word that I comes from my lips and all around me there are Duchi screaming, "Off with her head." Oh, but the figs, the wild fennel, the expanse of the craggy beaches and cliffs, the smells, the fog. Acme bread. There is goodness there too, even if the desert landscape is foreign to me, it does indeed have much beauty. I've always been a shtettle Jew and a shtettle Jew I always will be. This is not to say that I don't lust after buttery suede Sigerson Morrison boots, or ounces and ounces of musky white truffles, but I do know a tender potato when I see one, and I am not ashamed of this. I am second generation but while my heart most certainly does not straddle the Russia/Poland border, there is something in my soul that does. Yes, love potatoes. I love peasant food. I love rustic. I love the heel from a loaf of bread. I love stems in the wine. There you go. I am merely a peasant and I am perhaps a revolutionary who is screaming out against the landed gentry. It's enough to make me believe in past life experience. One of the bits of California culture I can't quite get a grip on is the separation between the winemaker, the owner and the land. I'm not saying this is the only way wine can be made. I'm not saying there aren't exceptions to the rule, I am saying that if this is the paradigm for making wine, the state will be fated to make sub-par stuff. In fact it's so confused that someone up in Fulton, California has a card that says Vigneron under his name where as far as I can tell, he's a vine tender for hire and does not make wine at all. Everything is all confused. I was also struck by how winemakers don't talk of the land, they talk of the wine. I was struck by stories, such as one veteran winemaker who was disabused by another, rather well known one, 'If you don't throw chips at it, you'll never get any color." Needless to say, he did not throw chips at it. Afterall, getting color out of cabernet is not like going to a colorist for a touch up. And then there are the oldest vines in St. Helena, Another sad story. right outside of the library, and right now, Larry Turley has taken them under his wing, and battling for their survival because that town is trying to grub up. Yes. Yes. This is indeed EU mentality, but there are so few old vines left, shouldn't they be protected just like the giant redwoods? So, do I dismiss California? Hell no. There is revolution burbling within those soils. A cluster of young wine freaks have grown up, flocking to where they can buy wine, dreaming about cement fermenters and getting an amphora or two, making white wines with the skins and daring to not yeast. Now, if we can only get them some land and teach them how to prune a vine and till a field. There's another Rhone in those craggy hills waiting to explode or if we don't get blown up by senselessness or trampled by illiterate looking for their Hi-Def TV at Wal-Mart. N-Raha. N-Raha.