Wednesday, April 22, 2009

an EARTH DAY present from Randall Graham

...[f]or Mr. Grahm, that means owning a vineyard, embracing biodynamic viticulture and farming without irrigation, as the best Old World vineyards are farmed. “Dry farming is absolutely crucial,” he said. “It’s more important than anything — biodynamics, schmiodynamics.”
“I actively resorted to all manner of marketing tricks,” [Randall Graham] said, as if standing before the congregation to confess.
 "Biodynamics, schmiodynamics....”!
" tricks..." !!

For anyone who's been asleep at the wheel these past 10 years, the truth is now out in the open! Now Randall implies that perhaps the entire thing (biodynamics) was a mistake, and he should've been paying attention to the amount of rainfall his vineyards get and how deep the local aquifers are instead of stuffing cow horns with "poo".
Well I saw that for what it was!
Simultaneously sad and funny to see, but here's the story: a man who set himself up as the advocate of this preposterous method of agriculture for marketing purposes is now backing away from his previous positions to focus on his NEW MARKETING position: Dry Farming!
Unfortunately, Randall hasn't given up all his old ways...
He seems to be relying on a geomancer to evaluate his newest vineyard acquisition's water potential, rather than hiring a certified hydrologist or geologist.
C'mon, Randall!  Make a clean break and purge your soul...'re so close to redemption!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since you seem to feel that anything remotely related to actual viticultural practice smacks of marketing, I'm extremely curious to learn more about the obviously vast amount of time you've spent walking through, managing, and becoming intimately familiar with vineyards.

To put it another way, why on earth would you castigate someone's decision to dry farm?



April 22, 2009 10:33 AM  
Blogger St. Vini said...


Obviously I'm giddy that Randall has the balls to disregard all the effort he's put into selling BioD as the most important thing since sliced bread. I have no beef with dry farming, and no wish to castigate anyone regarding that choice. But I also feel that irrigation of vineyards is not necessarily an evil thing. Both are tools that can be utilized, and there are reasons that both exist. However, I feel that couching dry farming as the paramount of importance to making quality wine is being done solely to help him further market himself. If anything, Randall has always needed something to define himself with...some practice that he can champion...

This week's flavor sounds like its going to be "dry farming". Why else would he subordinate BioD to it after all the drivel he's spouted off about "sensitive crystalization", etc?

Personally, I have "better than two decades" of experience and intimate familiarity in the vineyards. I certainly don't claim to be a know-it-all about viticultural practices, and frankly I learn a lot each season because each one is different. I think many are more knowledgeable than I, but I still feel experienced enough to take a reasoned stand and defend it.

Thanks for the comment!

April 22, 2009 1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Randall has Adult ADD. How else can you explain regular life-long commitments to new a "ism" every couple of years?


April 22, 2009 3:25 PM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

I think its more like OCD...

Thanks Jason!

April 23, 2009 6:03 AM  
Anonymous Justin said...

Wow. Talk about taking liberty with choosing your quotes and misrepresenting something. I can't believe something like this even gets listed on as a featured blog on

April 23, 2009 6:06 AM  
Blogger Randall said...

A friend passed St. Vincent's comments on to me. As far as being perplexed as to why he has chosen to take my comments out of context, seemingly out of some personal animus, what Vincent seems to be saying is that once a person has shown proficiency in marketing, everything that he ever says again is to be highly suspect, and essentially disregarded. This, of course, reminds me of the old joke about the reputation that follows one after having (just but once) had carnal relations with a goat.

For the record, I still believe strongly in biodynamic methodology, not because I can scientifically or even philosophically defend it, but because it seems to help a grower produce healthier fruit that is more balanced and less needful of heroic winemaking intervention. I esteem wines that are made in a more natural, less interventionist way; that is my personal aesthetic and there are some (though possibly not most) who might agree with that position. The point that I was trying to make to Eric Asimov is that biodynamic methodology itself is not a guarantor of the highest quality wine, nor is dry-farming, for that matter, nor the purchase of the best barrels, the best sorting table and any of the thousand decisions that a winegrower might make. The single most important decision that a winegrower makes is where to plant his vineyard - is this a site that is capable of producing great wine? If so, what grapes might I plant there and on what rootstock, what spacing, what trellising, etc. These questions, if one is alive and paying attention, should fill any winegrower with great existential angst, as there are many ways to go wrong and far fewer ways to go right. I do feel that among the many viticultural decisions a grower makes, the decision to irrigate (or not) is perhaps one of the more important ones.

Eric did get one small detail slightly wrong in his article. A decision to irrigate or not irrigate will be made after consultation with a number of soil scientists and experts on the subject of dry-farming, and ultimately by observing how the vines behave as we attempt to farm them with no supplemental irrigation. The geomancer was employed principally to identify the most propitious entry to the site and the location of the winery building, not so much to speak to the dry-farmability of the site. Is this drivel? Geomancy has been practiced for thousands of years and many if not all of the first growths of Bordeaux have utilized this practice in one form or another for siting their buildings, though this is not commonly advertised.

I do not wish to hang my hat on a single explanation or even multiple explanation of why my wines now or in the future are good or great. Wines are not great because they are farmed biodynamically or are dry-farmed, but those methodologies reflect a level of care that a winegrower might take. At the end of the day, these methodologies are for naught if he has not had the wit to select a brilliant site. At the end of the day, the wine must speak for itself.

It must be very difficult for Vincent to imagine anyone speaking with an open heart, nor imagining that anyone might speak openly and candidly without an overarching profit-seeking motivation.

April 23, 2009 7:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

eMy Darling Randall,
Here I came to defend and explain and you as usual have cleverly beat me to the punch.

I do have to confess that I am mildly shocked and more importantly a little worried at the take of whomever this self proclaimed St. Vini is. Everything about this site from concept to content reeks of Randall Graham - has anyone read this "Credo"??? Does it not look remarkably familiar??? Not to mention, the alarming selections and odd choices of excerpts to work from in what I thought was a very honest take on RG. I am quite confused at how exactly St. Vini came to his posting and the message he is trying to sling. I didn't read of you abandoning anything quite honestly, not even your own larger brands. I read of a man who is taking a journey through the world of wine and has continued to self reflect, focus and prioritize as time and experience passes and allows. This is all very very concerning!!!

I am not sure what the clinical term is for the mental disorders where the student kills his own teacher, nor when the killer impersonates his prey.
That being said, Randall please be careful and do not visit this site again, in fear that this angry winedrinking holyman will leap through the screen and get you!

...and Mr. St. Vini, please do get yourself some help soonest. Tumors in the frontal and
temporal lobes and the diencephalons have been
associated with hallucinations and delusions.
Meningiomas, gliomas, and pituitary tumors can also
cause psychotic symptoms.


April 23, 2009 10:40 AM  
Blogger St. Vini said...


First I'm honored you made the time to reply!
Several points...

On geomancy - Horace warns us against "meddling with Babylonian calculations" (Odes, written ca. 20 BC), and Marcus Cato states directly that "he must not consult a fortune-teller, or prophet, or diviner, or astrologer." (ca.150 BC, De Agri Cultura).
Columella also (Rei Rusticae, ca. 60 AD) proclaims that "soothsayers and witches, two sets of people who incite ignorant minds through false superstition to spending and then to shameful practices, he must not admit to the farm."
Historically, if you go back far enough within your "thousands of years" comment, I'd say you were flat out wrong. Maybe it took root after the fall of the Roman empire, during the Dark Ages.
Yes, geomancy IS drivel, and will continue to be so regardless if people practice it now through doomsday (as will astrology and tarot, et al).
I don't see any reasonable evidence presented to send me away from the sage Roman advice, and I don't really give a damn what aspect of the project it was regarding. If people value intuition so much (apparently what the individual "provided"), I think they would do better to cultivate their own, rather than rely on others.

Site selection is extremely important...too important to have any geomancers, astrologers, fortune-tellers, etc of their ilk, employed in ANY part of the process. And what can I offer but all the "historical practices" of every society that have been demonstrated as bunk.
To coin a phrase with respect to that - "history, schmistory"!
What does it matter how long anyone was doing something if it was wrong? That's not a sign to be displaying proudly, it's a matter for sorrow and regret. A dunce cap! Why continue to do so if it contributes nothing positive to the equation, and possibly - NAY, most likely! - derails good research and progress in favor of the continuation of false practices?
What a waste of resources that would end up being...and that wouldn't be very sustainable, now would it?So much for that.

I have no qualms with marketing, and I'll virtually tip my hat to you right now for your successful efforts in the past - and future.
People who market without respect to damaging the reputation of others in the same business is no joke...even if it is only implicit when they make statements about how much more "holistic" (another subjective claim) their own efforts are. I'll pass on the deviant anecdote you offer. I haven't heard it, and would rather not.

I have found your wines very serviceable in the past, and have enjoyed many of them. But I have struggled with various aspects of your "messages" over the years to the masses, like the statements you have made about the overall desire for "terroir" - an undefined term, though you give minerality a prime role - about it being so site specific, etc. It theoretically cannot exist in blended wines if we accept those positions, yet that hasn't stopped you from mixing large scale blends for market.

I'll mention in passing the idiocy and selective subjectivity of "sensitive crystallizations" and of the entirely unsupported theories you put forth in your "Phenomenology of Terroir" lecture.
Read all the tea leaves you like, that's something my grandparents did as a parlor trick and I don't care to be entertained by any of it.
Cosmoculture? Stone menhirs? Ley lines? Geo-accupuncture?

What I do value is your sense of humor, and your honest attempts to bring wine out of the realm of "stuffiness" and "prudishness". Wine needs to be enjoyable.
Sell wines. We all need to or we go out of business. I have no problem with anyone who honestly does so. But I don't have much patience for mixed messages which do nothing but muddy the intellectual waters that controlled research has provided for us to date. It creates confusion for the consumer which serves no one, except the carnival barker who's spouting it in the first place.

It's of note that you don't repeat the claims of superiority here on this blog. To have made statements that the product of BioD farming is superior, that those practitioners are somehow more "honorable", "benign", "noble", "enlightened" or otherwise more caring about the environment is an affront to the rest of us who are basing our efforts along lines of reasoned thought confirmed by experiment and further research. Follow your own philosophy & intuition as far as you wish...but stop "inadvertently" denigrating the rest of us for your own gain.

Am I taking you out of context to quote "biodynamics, scmhiodynamics"?
I think not. You've positioned yourself [quite successfully] as the most regal wearer of the BioD mantle, perhaps second only to Msr. Joly. The heir apparent to his throne as it were.
That you would even mutter aside something of that nature is incredibly newsworthy.

"Sensitive crystallization" is most definitely a "marketing trick". Period.

In the end, Graham, what I can say is this: you make very drinkable and well priced wines. Please continue to do that, and continue to try your best to make wine fun and not stuffy. Excel at these pursuits!
But I beg of you and those who work for you, spare the rest of us the pseudo-scientific drivel which demonizes or dismisses science, and denigrates the rest of us as pillagers of the environment.To "KN": from the tone of the comments, I think you should go take a cold shower.
My credo is based on my own beliefs, and is modeled tongue-in-cheek along a scene from Bull Durham [link here: ibelieve.mp3].

Vicente Santos

April 24, 2009 12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Randall's credit (and enduring existence) when his health was threatened by osteomyelitis, he did not turn to homeopathy.

Beyond that, perhaps it is as the French assert, the best wines come from France because the best vineyards are there. Its only happenstance that the rain is adequate to allow dry farming.

April 27, 2009 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is nonsense.

If dry-farming is the pinnacle of quality, then why not plant in a bog?
Maybe that's why Opus One is so famous.

But nobody'd have to irrigate if the water table is high enough! The answer isn't dry-farming, it's making sure the vines don't have too much water available. So I see no problem with irrigation, provided its done with a eye to a balanced crop and canopy.
The objection should be to irrigation & overcropping combined.


April 28, 2009 10:08 AM  

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