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The three periods of wine

The three periods of wine

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As a retired professor of art and art history, I have always been intrigued by the birth, growth, achievement, and decline of movements and periods of history. War, disease, intellectual achievement, technological advancements are some of the causes of historic periods. A period or movement in history can generally be divided into three stages: Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic.

The Archaic, or beginning, of a period starts when something new happens that causes a change to the old order. Things are new and exciting and yet crude and unrefined. They have a richness and beauty of their own.

The Classical period begins when the players realize the significance of the times and do all they can to raise the quality and beauty of their craft and their environment. They are artists of the highest order and they bring class, refinement and true greatness for the world to enjoy.

Alas, the poor generation that finds themselves in the shadow of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci recognize the greatness but do not have the intellectual wherewithal to continue the Classic. The general attitude of the Hellenistic (or Baroque) generations is that “more is better.” At this point, art becomes showmanship or circus.

I have been around the Napa Valley long enough to have witnessed all three stages of the growth of the Napa Valley Wine Period.

Archaic Wine Period, 1836 - 1966

Shortly after the settlers appropriated the lands of the Napa Valley, wine has been a part of our culture. During the first half of the 20th century, wine was not the major agricultural product of the Valley but it was a significant and vibrant one. Wine at this time was not a major American beverage. Wineries such as Martini, Beringer, Krug, and Inglenook made very good wines. There were a few visionaries like Joe Heitz and Robert Mondavi who saw a much greater future for wine. Wine labels were clean and simple.

Classic Wine Period, 1966 - 1986

At around 1966, there was an influx of dreamers, some that left good-paying corporate jobs, who came here to create something with their own hands. They wanted to do things that they could be proud of. They built beautiful wineries and made wines that were recognized around the world as the best. They hired great designers and made labels for their bottles that tried to express the quality of the product inside. Napa recognized the wonder of this place and created a special zone, the Agricultural Preserve, to help this area compete with the urbanization that was destroying other agricultural areas in the state.

Hellenistic Wine Period, 1986 - present

Sometime around 1986, with interest in wine growing around the world, we begin to see a flowering interest in owning a winery in the Napa Valley. The great corporations of the world began to see gold in the red stuff of Napa. With about 500 wineries, competition is fierce. To attract attention, wine labels have become cartoons. We now even have a wine tasting room that looks like a French bordello. What has become of the great vision of the dreamers.?

It is time to slow down the crass progression of the wine industry before the entire valley and its mountains becomes a cartoon with cute mansions and gentleman vineyards. Let's concentrate on making a product that the world knows is the best, and not on how many people and corporations can get rich from a concept created by visionaries.

Vote 'yes' on Measure C.

Jay Golik


Pop the cork on Napa Valley wine!

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Yes on C – the Watershed and Oak Woodlands Protection measure on the June ballot. Or don’t vote. Stay off the whine train.

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