…and if you listen carefully you can hear the deer, the fox, the frogs, the bees, the earth- destroying chainsaws and tractors cutting the trees down in order to create more fine wine.

In a recent article Igor Sill extols “The Magic Behind Napa’s Mountain Grown Wines.” [Wine Industry Advisor June 20, 2017]

“For me, that “sense of place” is on the mountain slopes of Napa’s wine growing region, where I contend some of the finest wines are produced. Pour a quarter glass of red wine grown in volcanic tufa (a porous, gravelly soil) swirl it and sniff it to fully absorb its aromas and flavors and you’ll immediately notice how much more you sense and appreciate those floral sensations. These wines are much more expressive, pure and aromatic as a result of the higher elevation, cleaner air, volcanic soil, natural nutrient content in the soil,” explains winemaker, Igor Sill. “These vines are healthier, fresher and happier.”

The article makes it sound as though the Almighty himself would burst with pride over these happy wines! But there’s no mention of the destruction of the biota, that has existed on Atlas Peak for thousands of years, required to plant these vines. There is however acknowledgement of the costs involved as man shapes the environment in his own image:

“It’s worth mentioning that mountain viticulture is a very expensive business when you have to remove tons of huge rocks to plant vines with different ripening times within rows which require many passes during harvest. Mountain wines tend to be produced in small quantities from land that is extremely expensive to farm, hence the reason that many of Napa’s expensive “cult” wines are from high elevations.”

The article does not mention the reality on the ground as Sill is currently ripping out precious vernal pools on Atlas Peak to plant yet more grapes. Creating terror in the animal population as he acts to create terroir.

The county says it’s not their problem. Nothing seems to be their problem, neither Bremmer, nor Reverie nor The Caves nor Syar. Where is the Army (Corps of Engineers) when you need them?

The Sill marketing machine spews out words that encourage one to sip this “wine born of passion”.

“Wine is born of passion, evolving over time, offering a truly beautiful thing that speaks to us through heightened sensory emotions that can sometimes reflect wonderful universal mysteries in a surprising fashion, evoking one of life’s many unforgettable pleasures. I think the people who plant vineyards at higher elevations possess a different sort of inner motivation and optimism, perhaps more in harmony with Ernest Hemingway’s view that “wine is one of the most civilized and natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection.” It is good to know that luscious healthy pleasures can be derived from this geographic pedigree of mountain vines.”

But what are we to tell our children about the hills that once were alive with deer, fox, frogs, bees. Did we let these creatures all die for a few more precious drops of that red beverage that so looks like their blood?

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