Lessons to The Resistance from Churchill

 

In February, 1941, as the Second World War ground into its seventeenth month, Great Britain was on her heels. Hitler was master of the continent of Europe; Italy had joined on his side; France had fallen. German bombers were reducing entire neighborhoods of London, Coventry, Birmingham, Liverpool and other English cities to rubble in the Blitz. Hitler’s U-boats were sinking enormous tonnages of goods being shipped to and from Britain, an island nation dependent on such trade for its lifeline. The German Wehrmacht–Army, Navy and Air Force–was poised to invade the British Isles. In the Libyan desert, Rommel’s Afrika Corps was routing the British army. In the Far East, Japan was mobilizing, threatening Imperial possessions such as Singapore and Hong Kong (both of which they soon seized).

In short, it was not a good time for the British, or for Winston Churchill, who had been called to be Prime Minister less than a year earlier. Churchill’s strategy—the only one he could truthfully proclaim to the British people—was heavy on rhetorical promises, but light on specifics: He vowed to “fight on the seas and oceans…in the air…on the beaches…on the landing grounds…in the fields and in the streets…in the hills…”. Despite the confident phrases, Churchill understood that Britain’s only chance was for America to step in, and so he added these immortal words: “We shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

Ten months later—in early December, 1941—that is exactly what happened, as America entered the war. But neither Churchill nor anyone else could foresee that possibility, and so, on that night of Feb. 9, 1941, from London, Churchill gave a major speech entitled “Put your confidence in us.” It was addressed, ostensibly, to “the British nation and the Empire,” but its real intended target was 3,000 miles to the west, across the Atlantic: the United States of America, and particularly its leader, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who the previous November had just been elected to an unprecedented third term. On that bleak night, with German bombs still falling across Britain, Churchill bluntly conceded the difficulties Britain faced. Germany remained ascendant, he said, outlining what further conquering Hitler was likely to accomplish. “He may carry havoc into the Balkan States; he may tear great provinces out of Russia; he may march to the Caspian; he may march to the gates of India. All this will avail him nothing…In order to win the war Hitler must destroy Great Britain.”

Churchill’s prognostications soon came true, with the exception of the Germans reaching India (not that they didn’t try). In the event, Hitler never did dare to invade Great Britain. America did enter the war, after Pearl Harbor, and what Churchill called “the Prussian yoke and the Nazi name” did go down to utter defeat (which would not have happened without the Soviet Union’s extraordinary resistance). But it took everything the British had to remain steadfast in the face of such horrible and demoralizing setbacks. At the conclusion of that Feb. 9 speech, Churchill issued one of his most stirring perorations. “We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down.”

Great Britain survived Hitler’s threat; she simply would not let him win. The British stared down and fought the dictator, whose martial aspirations ended with a self-inflicted bullet to the brain. I need not point out the similarities between those legendary times and our own, here in America, where a majority of our people voted against this current President, whose opponents are armed in this fight with little more than resolve. But resolve is the mother of victory. For us, following the glorious Women’s Marches around the world, this—as Churchill said in another context—“is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

And so let us roll on. For this new President to succeed in his nefarious designs, he must first destroy our confidence and unity, just as Hitler had first to break Britain before he could conquer the world. This, Trump is desperately trying to do; he knows the legitimacy of his Presidency is at stake, and it’s freaking him out. But like the English in 1941, “We shall not fail or falter. We shall not weaken or tire.”  This is Winston Churchill’s lesson to The Resistance.

Peter Mondavi, Sr.: A vision held steadfast

 

I’ve held off commenting on Peter Mondavi, Sr.’s death, because it’s been well covered elsewhere, and also because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to bring to the conversation.

It’s already been noted, for instance here in Wine Spectator, how much Mr. Mondavi contributed to modern winemaking techniques, such as cold fermentation and the use of French oak barrels. Important as those were, on reflection I think his greater contribution was to the sense of continuity he brought to a valley in which well-heeled newcomers enter the arena all the time, often acting as though Napa’s history hadn’t really been complete until they arrived.

This is not to say that Mr. Mondavi’s importance simply was longevity, although that, in itself, is an achievement. It also was an achievement of the first rank that he, together with his family, was able to keep Charles Krug Winery strong and in their hands; this was one outfit that, no matter how hard things might have been here and there, refused to sell out, although I’m sure they had opportunities aplenty.

But perhaps Mr. Mondavi’s greatest achievement—which he has bequeathed to Napa Valley—was that of a vision held steadfast. It can be difficult to define “vision.” Wealthy newcomers to the valley have visions, too; of Parker 100s, $300 wholesale prices on their wines, and all the glitz and glamor that go with the cult wine lifestyle. That is, to paraphrase Churchill, at least a vision…but it is not a particularly savory one.

The vision Mr. Mondavi possessed, he inherited from his parents, Cesare and Rosa, themselves saturated in the traditions of grapegrowing and winemaking. From their humble beginnings in Lodi, in the darkest depths of Prohibition, they were practically the living incarnation of the modern evolution of California wine. Peter Mondavi, Sr. and his brother, Robert, you might say, were born in barrels.

Why does continuity matter? It may be that I perceive its value more today than I might have twenty years ago. Continuity, in the person of a man or woman, is the residual compilation of all that has occurred up to that moment: the person becomes the living embodiment of it, and thus worthy of respect. If a wine region such as Napa Valley can be said to have a soul, then that soul resides not so much in its terroir, nor in its buildings, and certainly not in its newcomers, but in its enduring legends. And Mr. Mondavi was an enduring legend.

You know, in the last several years of Mr. Mondavi’s life, his family made a great deal of him walking up and down that famous flight of stairs on his way to work, even at his centennial age. They were proud of his health and grit, as well they should have been. But whenever I read that he was still climbing those stairs, I thought, not just about a single individual, but about Napa Valley. That it is still there, ascending, persevering, reporting to work every day, despite the nonsense that sometimes threatens to overwhelm it and, in our lemming-media culture, usually does. In that sense, Mr. Mondavi was a metaphor for Napa Valley itself. Just imagine what his eyes perceived over his long lifetime: the events, personalities, achievements, the drama, the ups and downs and tumult–a sweep of history encompassing, through his parents and his own life, most of the twentieth century and, through his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, born and not yet born, what likely will be a good part of the twenty-first and even the twenty-second. That is what Mr. Mondavi means to me. If I ask myself who else in Napa Valley is like him, or ever will be, the answer is: No one.

Retirement: Facelli Winery

I received this email from Facelli Winery. They were one of the first wineries in Woodinville. Sad to see them go but I wish them well. They are offering some great prices on their wines before they close.

 

Dear Friends,

Over the past 35 years we have enjoyed sharing our winemaking journey with you. Now, as with most great journeys, ours is coming to an end. It has been a beautiful and winding road that brought many wonderful people into our lives. So many of you are like family to us and we will definitely miss sharing our time and our wine with you.

Our tasting room will continue to be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00pm to 4:00pm for a limited time. We are selling our remaining inventory at 50% off “unmixed” cases and 30% off on “mixed” cases.

 50% discount on Unmixed Cases

2014 Fume Blanc……………………….$239.88 – 50% =  $119.94    ($10.00)

2010 Sangiovese………………………..$335.88 – 50% =  $167.94    ($14.00)

2010 Barbera……………………………..$335.88 – 50% =  $167.94    ($14.00)

2008 Nebbiolo……………………………$359.88 – 50% =  $179.94    ($15.00)

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon……………$479.88 – 50% =  $239.94    ($20.00)

2014 Late Harvest Riesling………….$167.88 – 50% =  $  83.94    ($  7.00)

2014 Late Harvest Moscato………….$203.88 – 50% =  $101.94    ($  8.50)

2014 Late Harvest Syrah………………$359.88 – 50% =  $179.94    ($15.00)

30% discount on Mixed Cases

2014 Fume Blanc………………………….$19.99 – 30% = $13.99

2010 Sangiovese…………………………..$27.99 – 30% = $19.59

2010 Barbera………………………………..$27.99 – 30% = $19.59

2008 Nebbiolo………………………………$29.99 – 30% = $20.99

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon………………$39.99 – 30% = $27.99

2014 Late Harvest Riesling…………….$13.99 – 30% = $  9.79

2014 Late Harvest Moscato…………….$16.99 – 30% = $11.89

2014 Late Harvest Syrah……………….. $29.99 – 30% = $20.99

For wine descriptions or to order online, visit our website at www.facelliwinery.com

Flat rate shipping 1-12 bottles $25.00

We ship to the following states:

CA,CO,DC,FL,IA,ID,IL,MD,MI,MN,MO,NC,NV,OR,TX,VA,WA

Note if ordering online: Our online ordering system is unable to determine if a case is “mixed” or “unmixed”, so it will automatically deduct a 30% discount. When we process your order, we will manually apply an additional 20% discount on all “unmixed” cases.

Grazie Mille!

The Facelli Family

 

www.facelliwinery.com

Phone: 425.488.1020

 

French wine month names, the California drought, and growing weed in Napa Valley

 

Here’s how a wine-crazed country thinks: On Sept. 22, 1792, the First French Republic was born, amidst the fiery pangs of the French Revolution.

It was a good day for the middle class of Paris, not so good for Louis XVI and his Queen, Marie-Antoinette, both of whom who already had been deposed and imprisoned (and would shortly be killed). The people were in such a radical mood that when deputies to the Convention gathered to draw up a new constitution for France, they even changed the names of the months. Instead of Roman-derived names usually dedicated to gods (i.e. January/Janus, the god of sunset and sunrise), the Convention created a calendar that began with the current revolutionary Year I and, starting with that dramatic Autumn month of “September,” redubbed the months this way:

Vendemiaire (Vintage)

Brumaire (Mist)

Frimaire (Frost)

Nivose (Snow)

Pluviose (Rain)

Ventose (Wind)

Germinal (Budding)

Floreal (Flowering)

Prairial (Meadows)

Messidor (Harvest)

Thermidor (Warmth)

Fructidor (Fruit)

The new month-naming scheme, as it turned out, didn’t last; Napoleon abolished it in 1805 (although it was briefly resurrected in 1871, when for two months a radical-socialist government took over Paris). But see how much the month-names of the Revolutionary Calendar reflected the annual cycle of the vineyard. How wonderful it was for France to consecrate their calendar to wine and other treasures of the harvest! Vintage-budding-flowering-fruit—these remain the annual stages of the grapevine around the world, but alas, no government any longer names months after them.

* * *

The Press-Democrat reports that, thanks to El Nino, January was “the wettest since the drought began” in 2012, with more than 10 inches of rain falling in Santa Rosa. That has brought North Coast reservoirs up quite a bit, and the Sierra snowpack hit a five-year high last month, but “California is Still in Drought,” Scientific American says, adding, “It will take many more storms and almost assuredly more than a single winter—even one with a strong El Niño—to erase” the historic dry spell. Bring on the storms!

* * *

It looks like Napa city may be poised to allow medical marijuana dispensaries, including the possibility of “cultivation,” although both practices currently are outlawed. It’s likely that California will soon legalize even recreational use, not just medical use, giving a new state agency, the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, authority over growing it. No doubt the best pot farms will be located in precisely the kind of climate central and northern Napa Valley possesses: hot, sunny and dry in the summertime. Given the vast amounts of money that can be made in the pot business in California alone–$31 billion a year—why would a vineyard owner, given the legal ability to do so, waste his time on Cabernet Sauvignon when he could grow weed instead? Maybe not on those prime hillside and benchland vineyards, but in terroirs less suited to Cab, like the fertile flatlands along the Napa River? Hmm. Would you? I would. I’d find a consulting farmer who specialized in weed—kind of like the David Abreu of marijuana (and you know there are folks setting themselves up for it) and grow, baby, grow.