My guest for this episode is Greg La Follette. Just when you think you know something about wine, you meet someone like Greg. Talking with him about wine is like having the sun rise suddenly while you’re walking a path at night with only a flashlight. I apologize in advance to anyone who is trying to listen to this while doing something else, because you’re going to want to take notes.
Even if you haven’t heard of Greg La Follette, you’ve probably drunk wines that he helped make. He mentored at BV in the early 90s under Andre Tchelitstcheff. He has designed and redesigned fourteen wineries worldwide and was the consulting winemaker for the University of California Davis’ “teaching winery”. He has consulted for Kendall-Jackson, starting its La Crema and Hartford Court brands. He launched Flowers, turning it into a cult brand, featuring its gravity-flow “green” production facility that is still considered state of the art. He went on to manage wine operations at DeLoach, and founded Tandem Wines, and has consulted on many other projects too numerous to mention.
If you’ve been following the Organic Wine Podcast at all, it won’t come as a surprise to you that with his legendary reputation as a winemaker, Greg’s gives preeminence to the winemaking that happens in the vineyard before the grapes are even picked. You may have heard the cliché that “great wine is made in the vineyard.” In this episode, Greg tells us how. He discusses the 3 most important moments in winemaking that all happen in the vineyard, and in fact as I re-listened I counted at least 2 or 3 additional moments in the vineyard that he discusses as vitally important to winemaking.
And that’s before he gives a breakdown of microbial ecological succession during indigenous fermentations and how that lends more complexity to wine.
If you listen closely, you’ll find moments throughout what Greg says where he seems to talk about grapevines and people comparatively and even interchangeably. I found something profoundly meaningful in this, as it makes me feel as if Greg has come to know these beings so well that he has achieved a perspective that is not from this modern world, but recalls an ancient perspective from those indigenous groups who also knew their ecosystems with equal intimacy. A perspective of identification and equality with our non-human family. A perspective of compassion and empathy.
Even if you aren’t working with vineyards or making wine, this episode will give you a glimpse of how much there is to learn about wine, how deep scientific knowledge enables us to listen to and serve vines and ecosystems better, and how complex and beautiful our world can be the more we get to know it.
View or download Greg's "From Soil To Bottle" presentation here.
With special thanks to Lucie Morton.