The Loss of the Unique

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As members of what amounts essentially to a farmer’s electric company cooperative, Wasco Electric, we receive their monthly publication, Ruralite, a magazine that covers life and individuals out in the agricultural reaches and towns they service. I enjoy reading it because it’s “real,” not air-brushed imagery or loaded with Madison Ave adverts, its glamour is in its simplicity. Anyway, after dinner I was thumbing through and came across an ad in Marketplace, that began, “Plant Grapes, Make Wine.” It went on to tell about the acreage and location of “prime, undeveloped land, water rights, blah blah blah” from a notable Washington State AVA. Didn’t I have a chuckle. How easy. Plant grapes, make wine. Just like that, people. And we wonder why the market is as the market is. Holy crap.

Chatting with Scott, he told me about a phone conversation he had with a wine broker? wine something or other, who said to him how she often checks the Oregon Liquor Control Commission website, and sees, as Scott relayed, “All the wineries springing up.” That’s right. springing up. And indeed they are. And we wonder why the market is as the market is. Yes, I’m saying it again.

For better or worse, we took a true path. Our endeavor was not one that sprung up. It’s been decades in the making, years of searching, and of waiting. We planted a vineyard on land that met our requirements, and we waited, to make wine based on Scott’s palate, one that he developed in France with one of its top wine merchants. Yeah!

And then there are ads like this, thank goodness, to leave us smiling even more, where someone 64 years young wants to meet “sexy looker that can treat me right and cook well.”  Ha! Good looking and a good cook! At least he didn’t ask for some sexy looker he can plant grapes and make wine with who’s also a good cook and on top of it all treats him right. I’d end our subscription.

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Watching an Ed Sullivan “Classic Performances” the other night on a public broadcasting station, we were struck by the authenticity of the performances. There was no big show, it was about the music, and each song and its performer/s showed true individuality. Petula Clark, The Mamas and the Papas, The Beatles, The Four Lovers….How could it not be so, when it was nothing but the performer on a bare stage—singing, not lip synching, or rarely, since Sullivan wanted the music to be live— and in black and white to boot? Such clarity of focus, of the song, of the artist. “That performance was just stunning,” said Scott of “Down Town.” No, Ed truly appreciated the unique. And through him gave a lot of people their first break.

We need an Ed Sullivan for the wine world. Someone not afraid to step out there and discover new, singular talent. Writing a piece for about the International Wine Style, it made me wonder, “If Ed were resurrected, and had wine producers on his show, who might he have these days?” Would he have given in to the masses and opt for a bunch of Britney Spears-like lip- synchers who simply go through the motion, mastering the art of dazzling through performance? Or would it be Petula Clark-esque, a sole singer on a stark stage where the song/wine is so much a part of the singer, that you can’t tell where one begins and the other ends and the whole performance belongs to that person alone, never able to be replicated? It’s really hard to know. We would hope Ed would appreciate us, and not for our singing!


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…And Getting Pushed Back — our latest installment on

It’s about how The Grande Dalles, vowing to do things differently than the me-toos out there, is not finding it easy; very few appreciate an individual wine, we’re finding.

Here’s how it beings:

“When we began to even think about getting into the wine industry, we knew one thing: We didn’t want to be like anyone else.

What was the point, we asked ourselves? Does a painter set out to be like Chagall, or a musician like Hendricks? No! And so we set out to make a singular wine based on Scott’s vision — one that had been solidified in a pre-global palate France, and growing in him for 20-plus years. It would use grapes from the vineyard we farmed, the land painstakingly chosen for the wine we envisioned. No way were we going to emulate another country or person’s style. We only wanted to reinstate what we found sorely on the wane in the industry: Wines that dare to be different because of where and who they come from. We were going to push the envelope. Little did we know how hard the industry would push back.”

Anyhoo — the whole story is available for your enjoyment on The Daily Meal here. If you like it, please do rate it with the stars next to the column, so we can keep writing for this fine online community.

Many thanks –


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Years ago in the mid nineties when I first began visiting Switzerland and my at-that-time Swiss inlaws, one of my most memorable visits, and actually my FIRST visit, was at Christmas. We surprised them on Christmas Eve, when they did their celebrating: the ringing of the bell to summons the family into the tree room, the tree just lit for the evening; the gathering of the family around the table for songs and stories and musical instrument playing; the giving of gifts; the sharing of laughter and talk until it was time to dine.

Upstairs in the most magical Swiss home one might imagine, not a chalet, for we weren’t in the mountains, but something that resembled a small castle complete with tower that sat upon a hill overlooking a small lake and die Rigi and other glorious peaks of central Switzerland, my then mother-in-law had at the top of the creaking, old stairs a small dish of chocolates called Merci. I don’t know why I felt I had to sneak them as I passed by, one here going downstairs (merci!), another on the way up (merci, noch einmal!), but I did, and was greatly taken by their “European-ness,” these little chocolates in a dish, with the magic of a Swiss Christmas all around. On every visit to Switzerland, whether I was still living in the States, or when we lived in Germany, whenever my mother-in-law had those chocolates out, I felt somehow like I had come home, how special these were to me.

I never saw these chocolates in the States. For one I never looked, for another I thought they were a product that would only be found across the pond. But lo-and-behold, they have gone the way of nutella, toblerone, and who knows how many other “specialty” items that were only available to those who had the gumption to expand their horizons past their neighborhood Target store. I am thrilled that this candy can be found closer to my current home in the Pacific Northwest, but there’s something missing. And I think that’s the loss of the uniqueness of this chocolate, the specialness of something as simple as this small, German candy. Granted it’s simply a symptom of our global economy, granted I did not personally know the maker of it, but taken out of its environment it somehow loses an authentic context and  becomes nothing more than a commodity product;  now that it obviously is mass produced for an American market it feels there’s not much to value about it anymore,  it’s just something to have. Non, merci.

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