The winner of last month’s MWWC was The Armchair Sommelier with a heartwarming story of how wine and a friend helped her in a time of need. Along with the honor of winning the contest, she got to choose this month’s topic Local. In one of her post-win blogs, she jokingly mentioned that her topic was going to be “tomatoes.” I did laugh out loud at that, but now I’m thinking it might have been an easier topic for me. See, we source our fruit from Paso Robles and our winery is in San Luis Obispo, we actually live in NJ. In order to start and maintain a winery, you need to have an income. The not so far from the truth adage of “What does it take to make a small fortune in the wine industry? Start with a large fortune.” (insert laugh track here) requires us to be bi-coastal. Which means that the concept of local is a tough one for me.
I think there are two ways to consider this topic. First, local as the above picture states. Eat, drink and buy local. I am a huge proponent of this concept. Sadly, it is not so easy on the East Coast, at least not where we live. I know we get made fun of all the time. We are called “The armpit of the U.S.” and I get it. Most people who come to Jersey fly in and out of Newark. Newark is an armpit, but it is not representative of what this state has to offer. This state has so much more beauty than ugliness. Jersey is called the Garden State! Look at these pictures! Jersey is full of gardens and farms, There is an amazing shoreline and the most beautiful mountain landscapes. New Jersey is very diverse. When it comes to the farms, sadley, they aren’t so close to where I live. The counties that are known for their farms are quite a drive for me. But in counties like Sussex, those people can “wake up and pull their dinner ingredients out of the dirt.” That is local. I however live in a suburb. I have the “luxury” of being able to get anywhere and anything pretty much within ten minutes, but that almost anything is not include a fresh vegetable stand. And I hate that!
When we are on the West Coast, we plan our evening activities around the farmer’s markets. There is not much more on this earth that can put a larger smile on my face than walking through a farmer’s market. The ability to eat a blackberry that has just been picked that day is phenomenal. And to have a pluot, not only to have a pluot, but to have a choice of varieties of pluot is just heaven on earth. Heck, I can’t even get a dang pluot here in Jersey. (Oh, the injustices in the world!) While in California we choose restaurants that are farm to table because the food just doesn’t get any better.
But to the Jersey me, local isn’t about produce, it is about the small family owned businesses. For example, we have a restaurant in town that we can walk to in about 15 minutes. We love this restaurant and frequent it on a regular basis. When we need something for the yard or the house, our first impulse is to go to the local hardware store. These are the people who live in our community, the people who wake up every morning and put their hearts and souls into their businesses. It’s wrong that the “mom and pop” stores get run out of town by the big wigs. I think the least we can do is support these small businesses.
However, in terms of Dracaena Wines, local takes on a whole different perspective. When it comes to Dracaena, local is not just being at a farmer’s market, or eating at a restaurant that we can walk to. Yes, we do that when we are in town but when we fly across country, something changes, we become part of a community, we transform into a completely different type of local.
We love where we make our wine. Not just because of the excellent grapes or how well the vineyard manager cares for those grapes but because there is no greater sense of local. There are over 150 wineries (and growing everyday) in Paso with over forty grape varietals planted. This is a place where typical competitiveness does not apply. Being a Jersey girl, I have certain attributes that you would not understand unless you are from here. Hell, Jersey girls have made it into the Urban Dictionary and Ben Affleck made a movie, albeit a bad one, about us. In one word, we are all about attitude, but with that comes a little reserve on something called trust. We straight out lack it! We are cynical about everything. When someone tries to do something good for us (there always has to be an ulterior motive) we question it. So, when I go to Paso, I need to put a check on my Jersey attitude and I need to change gears and become a LOCAL! Being local in the Paso wine industry means you help each other, no matter what. It means, you have a very large extended family and you care for each and every one of them.
The most amazing example of what it means to be Paso Local occurred on our last trip to California. While visiting the vineyard that we source from, we discovered that another well known winery sources from the same vineyard. We were ecstatic.
We visited this winery – we always do, because we love their wines. Except on this visit, it was different, we wanted to taste their Cabernet Franc as a comparison. (sense the Jersey girl competitiveness.) But this time was different, this time we were locals. So upon tasting, and explaining we source from the same vineyard, the woman, who turned out to be the owner, behind the counter called her husband, the winemaker. He came to the tasting room and talked to us. Not only did he talk to us, he explained his wine making philosophy to us. He told us when and why he chooses to pick his fruit, how he treats the wine in barrel, and what factors he considers when he decides to blend or not to blend.
That is local in its purest form. No competitiveness, no “look out for me” attitude. Instead, being a local means having a “look out for all of us” attitude. What a concept, eh? It is up to you. You can eat local, you can drink local, you can even buy local but when you get down to it, in order to be truly local you need to