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Making great Pinot Noir: it’s a Republican thing


Do you think that starting a successful winery is a conservative or a liberal thing to do? I don’t think it’s either. Only a rightwinger could interpret it in an anti-Obama way as a teabaggy example of all-American patriotism. Yet that’s exactly what some guy whose nom de blog is “weeklybito” did at a far-right website called RedState, which he titled “Pinot Noir and Capitalism.”

Seems weeklybito came across a Kosta Browne Pinot Noir, which he loved. He met with Michael Browne, who told him the story of how he, Michael, and partner Dan Kosta started their winery from very humble beginnings. Kosta Browne today has a high reputation in California Pinot Noir circles.

Lots of successful wineries (and lots of not so successful ones) were started by folks who had no money to begin with. Of course, lots of wineries also were started by people who had plenty of money to begin with. It’s always nice when somebody poor works hard and builds up a great brand. I’ve known dozens such, and have written about and praised many of them in my various books. It’s a lot harder to start with nothing and make it happen than to buy the stairway to heaven.

But why make political hay out of it? Some people just have to inject their politics into everything, and that’s what this weeklybito has done. He can’t just talk about the wine, the founders, the terroir. No, he has to see it all from a rightwing point of view. Here’s some of his Limbaugh-esque rhetoric, followed immediately by my refutations:

“From these humble beginnings American capitalism took root.” American capitalism? You mean they don’t practice capitalism in Brazil, Germany, Hong Kong, Mexico, Zimbabwe? Under capitalism, goods and services are traded on an open market, hopefully for profit. There’s nothing “American” about capitalism. It’s a system, not a country. And it can be argued that our uniquely American form of capitalism is not exactly doing the vanishing Middle Classes any good.

“Dedication and endurance need to be returned to the American work ethic.” Tell that to the auto workers, 4,000 of them, who were just fired from the NUMMI plant, 20 miles south of where I live. They were dedicated, they endured hard work. Tell that to the 30,000 others who are likely to lose their jobs as the ripple effect of NUMMI’s closure sweeps across the South Bay. Why politicize Kosta Browne? If bootstrap “dedication and endurance” are so important to making great wine, then does that mean that Bill Harlan — whose wealth financed his Harlan Estate winery — was not dedicated, had not endurance?

Kosta Browne “documents why America is still a great country and gives us reason to celebrate American achievements in the face of adversity.” What does the success of a winery have to do with documenting why America is a great country? One of these days we’re going to hear about some sensational wines coming from a Caucasus country. Will weeklybito then rant about how great Ukraine or Georgia or Belarus is? Kosta Browne gives us a reason to celebrate achievement, not “American achievements.” Why chauvinize what Michael and Dan have done? Why do the rightwingers have to praise everything good as “American” and everything they don’t like as “anti-American”?

Okay, forgive me. I promised I’d try to refrain from politics on this blog and keep my political opinions to Facebook. But this post was about wine — well, a little bit. So I didn’t really break my promise. That would be, well, un-American!

  1. In 49 years of living in Northern California’s wine country, and over 20 years working in the industry, political affiliation has never entered into conversation focused on wine.

    I recently wrote about an initiative, possibly destined for California’s November ballot, that would increase the excise tax collected on all wine sold in California 12,775%; so politics and wine sometimes – rarely – are mentioned together.

    My follow up article sketching a biography of the initiative’s authors, and their possible motivations, carried no mention of their political party. I thought such speculation unworthy of consideration. It is nearly impossible to guess the political party affiliation of a retired Master Chief Petty Officer, who uses “PTL” (Praise The Lord) in correspondence, and lives near Orange County; and such speculation does nothing to further a bi-partisan condemnation of the initiative on it’s merits.

    Your article did make me smile, wryly, at an entire vein of social discourse that is aimed at creating divides where none exists.


    John Cesano

  2. What do you like about this country Steve?


  3. The way I see it, if they are promoting consumption of wine in the Red States then it ain’t all bad, regardless of any political bias. Of course they’re going to slant it to their particular audience, just as most bloggers, journalists or media outlets in the world do these days.

    Sometimes preaching tolerance includes being tolerant of those that disagree with you, or vice-versa……

  4. Steve,
    I am now sitting in a hotel in Naha City, Okinawa while my son is doing weapons training at the Hombo Dojo. I am drinking a 489 yen (five bucks) bottle of Cab Sauv from the Republic of Macedonia bought fron the local grocery store. It is better than ok. I do not know if this makes me a Republican or Deomocrat, capitalist or American capitalist. What seems apparent is that our shorts are getting eaten on the international market.

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