December 22, 2005

Joe Davis of Arcadian on Grape Radio

Grape Radio. I know, it threw me for a loop, too.

But after winning one of those iPod things in a drawing, I’ve listened to some of the Grape Radio podcasts and been fairly impressed.

No, not by the name (I can’t claim much better though). Nor the cheesy music and amiable if unpolished hosts. But many of the guests in the first year have been top notch. I’m not sure of its appeal to novices – the wine geek factor can be high. Still, Grape Radio is pretty cool, and sailing into uncharted waters of informative, entertaining wine media.

Perhaps controversial, too. The most intriguing episode yet features Joe Davis of Arcadian Winery in central California. Joe is an interesting cat, probably loved by some and loathed by others. He’s vociferous about the greatness of lower alcohol, elegant pinot noir in the face of today’s fashionable high alcohol, dense varieties.

He’s also simply one of the most unscripted people I’ve observed in the wine industry, either in this podcast or on any number of interesting (mostly) threads on pinot noir on the discussion group. Even if sometimes he might regret his candor, one has to appreciate his intent and passion.

Yet, in this episode even Joe’s passion can’t save him from his own words that verge on slander. I was shocked at what I heard him say.

I won’t rehash the whole thing, you can listen for yourself. But let’s just say that, as much as I find myself in Joe’s philosophical camp about pinot noir, and as right as he may be (MAY be) about his concerns for other, less experienced vintners enjoying recent success, he goes too far in calling them out personally for potential issues in their wines based on pure speculation.

Even if his words aren’t slander (I’m not sure they are, though I might feel differently if he were talking about me), Joe’s successful enough, and I hope smart enough, to realize he needn’t worry so much about other vintners nor talk about them in such a way to the media.

But let’s assume Joe’s right. My point isn’t that his opinion is off base, necessarily. Just that he’s not going to achieve his goal, whatever that may be, by calling people out this way.

He sounds like a dad criticizing his kid, which would be weird enough. Actually, it’s like he’s talking about someone else’s kid, which is too weird. If you’re so concerned, and especially if you’re so right, go talk to the person, especially when it involves someone’s passion and livelihood.

And that’s not code for “be politically correct.” No, be smart. At the least, be polite. As with making pinot noir, less is usually better.

Still, it makes for intereting listening. For a counterpoint, check out earlier podcasts here and here.

UPDATE - Check out this thread on Looks like there will be a follow up interview in January with Joe and some of the people he spoke about in this interview. I'll definitely be listening.

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