About Project Sunlight . . .

The title of this blog brings together two of the things I enjoy most, wine and science fiction.

I love to read good science fiction (and all good science fiction is as much about science as it is about fiction) and drink great wine. Actually, I prefer great science fiction, and I’m content to drink wine that is simply good, though perhaps not great.  And I aspire to grow grapes, make great wine, and write publishable science fiction. More on all that in future posts.

So what’s the connection? Well, you can see it in the banner of this blog, which quotes the great Galileo Galilei. Galileo was a man of science: a mathematician, an astronomer, and above all, an independent thinker who had the courage to challenge the accepted wisdom of his time. He made observations and drew conclusions based on them, no matter where they led. His influence was so great that modern science would be almost unthinkable without his contributions.

And he apparently loved wine as well, describing it from the perspective of one who had studied the night sky and looked up at the stars with a scientist’s curiosity: “Wine is sunlight, held together by water.”

So, while the promise of this blog is that it will explore the world of viticulture and winemaking, I suspect there will be a few side trips down the road of science and science fiction as well. And perhaps some history, and even a drop or two of religion. After all, as Benjamin Franklin noted, wine is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

I couldn’t agree more.

. . . and about me

My passion for wine took root in Europe.

Like many in my generation, I gave little thought to wine when I was young, preferring beer and the occasional shot or two of scotch. Wine, other than the Thunderbird or Ripple that we occasionally drank in college, seemed expensive, snooty, and complicated. I knew that I didn’t like Ripple or the so-called “Chablis” and “Burgundy” marketed by a certain American winery, and so I stuck with Bud.

Flying Alitalia to Rome in 1980, I was distressed to find that they didn’t serve Budweiser, and reluctantly made do with Italian beer – Peroni, I think. I decided that it was pretty good, and it encouraged me to move a bit further outside my comfort zone. On my first night in Rome, I tried the house red and was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. I didn’t ask for beer again that trip, and I was delighted to find as we traveled through Italy that the house wine in every trattoria or ristorante was different, usually made close to the restaurant, and always delicious. Not to mention, affordable.

I’ve been in love with wine ever since. And while I’ve come to realize that I don’t have the refined palate or nose of a Robert Parker – or the wine budget either for that matter – I’ve also discovered that there are many simple and low-cost wines that bring great pleasure. Of course, there is a universe of truly great wines out there, and from time to time, I’ve had the opportunity to sample a few and remind myself what wonders can be wrought from a simple grape.

Now I want to do more than simply drink what others have crafted. I want to make my own wine – to crush grapes from vines I have planted and raised, and turn the juice into something special.

Do I have what it takes to succeed in this quest? I believe that I do, but there’s lots of hard work ahead before I can say for sure. I do know it will take time – a year to prepare the ground, three years for the vines to mature sufficiently, and a year or more after that before the wine is ready to drink. But not all of the work will be hard. Along the way, I’ll be exploring the vineyards and wineries of Virginia and engaged in the hard work of tasting wine.

Virginia is not the easiest terrain for viticulture, but I believe it is a very good wine region that is gradually turning into a great one. I’m particularly fond of wines form the Monticello AVA, or American Viticultural Area, which includes Albemarle, Greene and Nelson counties. Of course, as one who graduated from the University of Virginia, I am almost honor-bound to revere all things related to Thomas Jefferson, but honestly, I would regard wine from the Monticello AVA as great even if the region hadn’t been named for Jefferson’s home.

In any event, it is the region that I plan to start my own little family vineyard. On the theory that the best place to locate a vineyard is next to other great vineyards, I believe I have a significant advantage in this venture.

The connection to Jefferson is just a bonus.