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California Wine Pioneer Richard Sanford Interviewed by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher

Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher interview Sta. Rita Hills wine pioneer Richard Sanford. Read their column here.

Dorothy J. Gaiter & John Brecher: Today we have at the Grape Collective, the formidable Richard Sanford, who is a pioneer. He was the first person to plant Pinot Noir in what is now the Sta. Rita Hills appellation in Santa Barbara. He basically put that grape on the map with his partner at the time, Michael Benedict. And you became the first winemaker from Santa Barbara to be inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame. 

That's true, Dorothy.

Was it 2014?

2012. 

That is awesome.

I'm very proud of that. You know what, Dorothy? It was hard for me to accept all of that because after all, it's just wine. And I didn't think it was any big deal to be out there, but it was quite a surprise to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, the winemaking hall of fame, truly.

SanfordWell, the vineyard that you and Michael planted, Sanford and Benedict Vineyard, it's hallowed ground. It's one of the most famous vineyards there is.

You know what? It's so remarkable in my lifetime it's become a world-class site and it's really recognized internationally now, which is really stunning. And I think back on all the effort that I made at the time to select the right spot. It took a lot of study and review, and, well, from the very, very beginning farmers said grapes won't grow here. It was really challenging and interesting to start a new agricultural crop because the farmers there were fairly conservative. And I think that coming in and planting grapes was a bit of a threat, and it was unusual. 

So it eventually took a life of its own, but it took some effort to overcome the negativism. And I'll always remember when I started out that people said this is not a very good idea. There's one person who said, "You know what? I think this is a good idea." And that was enough for me. I was able to find some partners actually, in the wine committee of the Los Angeles Country Club. I went down and made a proposal after finding the site and deciding and going through all the research. You remember that I had studied geography-

I do remember that.

... at UC Berkeley. Then I was drafted into the Vietnam conflict, we call it now. And coming back from that, as I've told you before, was a very hard homecoming for those of us returning from the war. And it wasn't the war experience itself, and frankly, I was in my 20s and I became a naval officer. My father was a naval officer, an Annapolis graduate of the class of '24 in Annapolis. So I'd had a background growing up in the Navy. So when you are in command of a ship, it's a big responsibility for a 20-something-year-old person. And you have to grow up very fast.

I can imagine. 

So that experience really molded me. The command experience and being responsible for a division of men. Then the war experience itself was terrifying. I still become sort of emotional about it.

SanfordI can't imagine that you wouldn't.

And coming back to people who said, "Why did you go to the war?" It was very hard for me. And so my way of dealing with all of that was to reject the culture that sent me to the war. And what a remarkable opportunity for me. I look back on it and think that, as an adult, to have an open slate to start all over again philosophically and just in life is huge. Most of us don't have that opportunity. 

It's true.

So I look back on that and I think when I decided that I needed to be involved in something that was more connected to nature, I decided it should be agriculture. And then I began thinking about what kind of agriculture I would become involved in. I thought probably something that was not perishable. Something that got better with age. 

I wonder what that could be. 

What could that be? And you know what? I remembered back. I had a shipmate. And of all things, his name was Scott Wine. 

Really? Was this the guy that introduced you to Volnay?

He is the one who purchased Volnay wine.

His name was Wine?

Yes. It all just fits together remarkably. 

That's funny.

Bum-dum-dum-dum. Boom, boom, boom, boom.

Well, it was at Bully's restaurant in La Jolla. I can't remember when, but, you know how wine, you have these seminal experiences and-

Absolutely.

That created a threshold for me in wine.

Wow.

And I thought to myself, if I could be involved in something that had that sort of texture and beauty, why wouldn't I do that? And I didn't really know much about wine at that time, but I began to research where good wine grew in the world. I thought, if I'm going to be looking toward doing a Volnay, and my prejudice at that time after studying California, I thought, well, I'll go to Davis and get a degree. In four years out have a degree. Or I could plant a vineyard, in four years I'd have grapes. 

At that stage of my life, I thought I'd had enough education. So I went to Davis and spoke with some of the professors, then bought every book I could find about growing and making wine. I went home and read the books and I thought I could do this. 

Then I began to look around for the right place on the west coast of California and Oregon for growing grapes. In looking at all my research, the most remarkable thing that came to me was this transverse mountain range. 

East-west. 

Yes, east-west mountain range. Which is quite remarkable. I think there's only one other, maybe in Alabama, that runs east and west. These coastal valleys are open to the west and the winds coming off the ocean moderate the climate. It's remarkably two degrees a mile as you go in east or west in our valley. So I did a lot of climate research and ended up driving up and down the valley with a thermometer in my car. 

You had outfitted your car with thermometers?

I did. 

You also studied, or have a degree in geology as well.

Well, I started in geology at UC Santa Barbara.

That's kind of where these (rocks) come in, right?

It's true. I brought these little samples for you to show the kind of soils that we have in our vineyards. After my research I did study geology. I became more interested in the human interaction with the physical geography, which was more geography. So I went to Berkeley and studied geography. There was not a department of geography at UCSB at the time. Subsequently, it's become one of the finest departments of geography in the country.

I think that my interest in the physical world and the connection of people in the physical world led me to try and find the right place. Rather than just planting vineyards. I looked at Napa and said, if I plant a vineyard next to a neighbor in Napa, I'll probably be making wine same as my neighbor or similar. But I was interested in Pinot Noir and I thought, I've gotta go find the place to make quality Pinot Noir. 

So I did all this research and driving up around and I located this place, which subsequently became the Sanford and Benedict Vineyard. It had this rocky soil. This is all Miocene deposits. This is a marine deposit from 25 to 35 million years ago.

It's amazing. 

The beauty of this chert stone. You can see these striations. These are ocean deposits that were laid down years and years ago.

Layers and layers.

Then with compression and actually, there's a silica that's formed this hard angular ... It's called chert. Very hard angular stone. The beauty of this is that this has been in a shale formation and then the Sanford and Benedict Vineyard was a big landslide that mixed up this chert in the soil. You can see that it doesn't have rounded edges. It's not a pebble. It hasn't been in a stream. It's weathered in place. So all of this soil is native soil that's weathered right in place. The beauty is with these hard, angular chert rocks, flint-like rocks, that allows for really great drainage.

SanfordThat's a beautiful thing. 

I thought, well, the place I located had all this chert rock. I'll always remember wandering around on it with the guy who represented the owner. I said, "This is gonna be tough farming here with all this rock." Thinking that he'd have mercy on the price.

And did it work?

Not very well. 

I found this ranch. It was about 485 acres. I marched into the office of the attorney who owned the thing at the time as a speculative investment. It had previously been a bean farm and it was abandoned. It's actually part of the original Rancho Santa Rosa. That's why Alma Rosa relates to Santa Rosa the Rancho.

Michael was a botanist, right?

Michael was a botanist and I was a geography person, so together we made a pretty good team. We went around. I knocked on a lot of doors to try and find some investors because I didn't have the wherewithal to do any of this. Sure enough, at the LA Country Club we found some of the members of the wine committee had interest in what we were doing. They decided to invest in our enterprise. 

For me, it was huge because the amount of my investment was sweat equity. I didn't have any money. I drove around on a tractor getting the vineyard established. Rebuilt a barn on the place into the winery itself. My inspiration for winemaking and Burgundy winemaking was from the Old World. Quality wine was something new in the '70s and the late '60s. Barrels weren't even being used. You remember.

Right. We remember. Sure.

So this was sort of unique. I'm frankly glad I didn't go to school, because school was teaching standard winemaking, very high quality, by the way.

But standard.

Nothing against it, but pretty standard. Remember Richard Graff, Chalone Winery?

Oh sure. Of course. Just talking about Chalone.

We were sort of breaking new ground with barrel aging of all ... Barrel fermentation of Chardonnay. Who ever heard of that? I remember people used to steam the heck out of their barrels to get the wood out of it.

Can I just jump in on something? You've mentioned a couple times how difficult it was, and remained, financially. Over the years obviously you're a pioneer. You're a member of the Hall of Fame. Fabulous winemaker. But the business of winemaking seems deeply challenging in general.

It is.

Can you talk just about then, now? We've just seen two classic family-owned wineries, Stony Hill and Heitz, sold.

For outrageous sums probably. I imagine.

They're great names. 

Yeah, but it's their legacy. It's their family. It must have been difficult.

Yes, so can you talk some about just how difficult the business of wine is?

It requires funding. Planting a vineyard these days is $50,000 an acre kind of thing. When I started out, I was doing all the work. I did all the work myself. Frankly, that was important to me because there I developed the connection with nature and was frankly, four years on a tractor. Five years, six years in a place that had no electricity and kind of that connection was healing for me. I developed an interest in Eastern philosophy and ultimately Taoism and Tai Chi. I think frankly that's made me better as a winemaker to learn to stand off and be in nature and allow nature to take its course. 

All along we needed funding. The people in the Los Angeles Country Club funded it. It was very low capitalization and I wasn't a business person, so I put all this together. I had to learn about spreadsheets and that sort of thing. It was very exciting when we had our first wines. But frankly, it was hard to make wine by committee with my partner, Mr. Benedict.

SanfordSo in 1980 you left.

In 1981 my wife and I started Sanford Winery. In fact, we made wine up in the Edna Valley Winery when Dick Graff wasn't up to full capacity there. So we made wine in the cellars of Edna Valley for a few years and then moved it all down to the old one closer to where we lived. 

In the meantime, I had been enamored by a ranch that was not too far. With the proceeds from selling Sanford and Benedict, I purchased the new ranch and planted some vineyards and got started with Sanford Winery and took on considerable debt to do so. Things were going very well. You may remember Sanford—we were about 50,000 cases of production.

Oh sure. We have labels going back years.

Those classic labels from the wildflowers. Yes.

Exactly right. Yes.

We have those.

Well, it was going really well. In fact, a gentleman from England, Robert Atkin, came along and became a partner with us. I've had a number of partners along the way. Some very very fine people.

But not all.

I have to tell you that not all of them have been the best. It was a challenge to me after building the winery of my dreams. This was the Sanford Winery native adobe block that we built on site. I spent entirely too much money doing it.

Was supposed to be four million but ballooned to 10.

It ended up being $10,000,000 and, you know, these were days that we were selling $5,000,000 of wine a year. I thought, gosh, this is a pretty big deal. We're able to do all of this. I had this dream of building a Pinot Noir production facility that would have these tanks that would lift and be able to gravity flow so that we would make all of our wine by gravity, which Pinot Noir responds beautifully to. It doesn't like pumping around because it oxidizes.

After building the winery and having to take on additional debt, I went out and found a partner in the Terlato family in the Paterno wine group. That turned out to be not a good decision for me. I signed a non-disparagement agreement so I can't tell you the details of what went on, but just to tell you that that became a very challenging time. Frankly, I have compassion for those people in my spirit of Taoist beliefs. I think that I'm sad that I haven't heard anyone in the wine business say anything nice about those people. But there are different ways of being in the world. I choose to be in the world in a responsible way. 

My wife and I left Sanford Winery to pursue winemaking organically for all of our vineyards that we planted at Sanford Winery. This Robert Atkin came back into the scene 10 years after we started Sanford Winery. Dorothy I think I told you before, that after leaving that Sanford and Benedict Vineyard, there was a piece of my soul there. I would go down and visit the vineyard and finally Thekla, my wife, said, "You've gotta give it up. It's becoming an obsession."

It really was. So I thought I'd just give it up. To me it's sort of a karmic exercise that sure enough, two years later, 10 years later, this man came from England. His wife is from New York City. They're lovely people. He's passed away now. His name is Robert Atkin. And Janice was from New York City. He wanted to invest in a winery in California. I thought, hmm, I've got just the vineyard.

SanfordSo he brought you back.

So Robert came along and I helped to negotiate the purchase of the Sanford and Benedict Vineyard. So after giving it up, it came back to me. That was a remarkable experience. I had that vineyard for 25 years. I became the manager for Mr. Atkin and then Robert and Janice became partners in our enterprise, the Sanford Winery.

It was the best of all worlds for me. I expanded vineyards next door and we had about 300 acres of organically farmed vineyards. Certified.

I want to talk to you about your commitment to organics, but back then people didn't understand.

So with Atkins, you were farming organically.

Well, we made a commitment. We started out farming conventionally. Conventional farming is farming with the convention of the time. My wife had come from Wisconsin and her grandfather had a dairy farm. They did all their agricultural farming organically. She said, "Richard, why don't you just grow the grapes organically?" I was fearful. I said, "I don't know that that's possible." But after a couple of years, I tried it out and sure enough, we weaned ourselves of all chemical herbicides and pesticides. 

I started thinking, well, farming was the convention before the Second World War, everything was organic. There weren't chemicals invented for farming. I made the commitment. I'm proud that we were the very first organic vineyard in Santa Barbara County and continue to be certified organic. That's very important to me. 

Right.

There have been people who have come up with sustainability and people are trying to be sustainable. It's pretty good to be sustainable. But to commit yourself to certification of organic makes a statement. 

It's a very important statement. I read that the Terlatos weren't happy with the organic wine.

I'll always remember a meeting that we had. My wife kicked my shin under the table so hard when they said, "It's not worth the 10% extra to farm organically." At that point, we decided, you know what, we can't do this. 

You know what I feel best about? That I can say that I've never compromised my values in all these years of doing business and winemaking. There are ways of being in the world responsibly, and we've chosen to do that. We're committed to it and it's possible. The only thing that is important in organic farming is that the farmer believe that it's possible. Truly. Because it is. Everyone's so afraid of it. I think they're fearful of giving up the chemicals. What happens if there's a big disaster? I've learned that there are ways of dealing with this in an organic fashion that you just have to be inventive. 

I remember having a mealybug problem. Then I learned that the ants were farming the mealybugs for their nectar. Then I thought, well, we have to get the ants under control. Well, diatomaceous earth, if you can get the ants to eat it, binds up their innards and it's a great way to get rid of ants. But they have to eat it. So now I had to figure out if the ants want to eat sweet or if they wanted to eat protein.

So here I was with a number 10 can of jelly mixing in diatomaceous earth and a whole big tin of peanut butter mixing in diatomaceous earth. So I had one row I would spread peanut butter on the bottom of the vine trying to get the ants to eat the diatomaceous earth and I learned that they indeed like sweet.

SanfordI could have told you that, Richard. That's funny. Wow.

Anyway, you just do what you have to do to try and figure it out. It's lot easier just to spray. But what I've noticed in our vineyards is that there is health. I'm always nervous to see a vineyard that has nothing green, that it looks like nuclear winter. I think it's important to encourage growth. We're starting a new experiment now and it's pretty exciting at this stage to come up with new, inventive ways to do farming. I've gone back and researched endemic grass species that come from our region. We're putting together our own blend of grass seed to try and get our cover crop in tune with its natural surroundings. These are all native seeds that we're planting in the vineyard to try and get a natural sequence so we don't have to do a lot of plowing because we recognize that the first four inches of soil have huge biologic matter.

So, these kinds of things. I'm very excited to tell you about this new pruning technique from these guys from Italy, Simonit and Sirch. They've come up with a way of pruning that really is very helpful to the vines for their long-terms survival. Basically it's to design your pruning system so that the capillaries of the vine stay open. So we only prune with very small pruners. We don't use loppers anymore. It used to be that we would prune the head back to try and get the head back to a compact place where we would have our canes coming off. It's interesting that these guys recognize these beautiful swirls of a vine, how a vine is so beautiful, an old vine. But really recognizing that these swirls were caused by an injury to the vine that it was trying to heal. So with our big cuts, we were causing the vine to try healing. But with a big cut you have open wood where termites can get in. But when you prune with a small pruner, you prune just so that the vine heals itself.

It must be hugely labor intensive, however.

Yes, a little bit more. But the health and the beauty of the vine. The whole vineyard is much more uniform in its growth. You look up Simonit and Sirch. I'm very proud that this last fall they helped us with our crew. They go around the world helping crews do the pruning. They left our vineyard and went to Biondi Santi, so we're in pretty good company.

Very, very good company. What do you think of the future of Pinot Noir? You've been in this for a long time. What do you think is happening with it?

You know what? It just gives me chills to think about Pinot Noir because a beautiful Pinot Noir, a beautiful Burgundy has just so many parts to it. It's that lovely. Often our wines are blueberry and sometimes blackberry, and there is beautiful structure to fine Pinot Noir that has great length. We haven't been able to achieve the Comte de Vogue 30-year-aging Pinot Noir that is so luscious, but we're getting there. I think with our older vines, I'm recognizing that now that we have 35-year-old vines that we have a structure to the wines that are more complex now. 

The future is very bright, I think, for Pinot Noir. Our region has just exploded in growth with vineyards. You know what gives me huge satisfaction is to see some very talented young winemakers coming into our region and focusing on our region as where they want to be making their statement in wine.

Would you like to name some?

Well, you know Jim Clendenen has been in our region for a long time and has done a masterful job. Adam Tolmach at Ojai Vineyard has been doing a nice job. Rick Longoria. Gavin Chanin.

SanfordYoung kid.

Very young guy who is very talented. Tyler, Justin Willett is making fabulous wines. There are a number of them who have chosen to come and make this their place. I'm concerned that Pinot Noir is being priced out of the ballpark.

When Thekla and I started Alma Rosa Winery, we wanted to make wine for the people. You remember that at that time at Sanford Winery we were having so many problems with corks. We went entirely to screw top.

I wanted to ask you about that because it seemed as though your vineyard-designated wines have corks, but the others have screw caps.

I committed everything to screw top. I thought, you know what, this is dumb that we have 7% failure and we're still using this cork. We had the cork tank, the problem with the TCA. So I changed everything to the screw cap, and everyone said, oh, what an awful idea. But a year later they were saying, what a brilliant idea. You know?

Remember that time when corks were so awful and we were having so many failures?

We do indeed. 

That was a hard period. It made the cork suppliers take notice. I'll always remember. I think it was the Spanish and Portuguese government that gave $30 million for campaign for-

We heard from them.

Yes. So now they've cleaned it up and we have better quality cork. Frankly, I hope that we can eventually, just similar to PlumpJack, have some of our fine wines in screw cap and some with corks so that we can see the difference long term. Because what I found with a screw top, it's a great seal and it preserves the freshness of fruit of the wine beautifully.

Why is it the way it is now?

We decided that more and more were going to vineyard designation. Were going to Santa Rita Hills designation. The quality of our wines has just gotten better and better with the investment of Mr. Zorich.

They're delicious.

Thank you. We have been able to invest in our winemaking facility. I chose Nick de Luca as a winemaker to come and work with us. We work very well together. I planted new vineyards with specific aspects and great clones with the soil type in mind. Just the quality of our wines with the care that we're able to take now has gotten better and better. People our age and older remember that pop of the bottle and really a lot of people prefer having a cork in a higher quality wine. For reasons of quality, we've chosen to go back to a cork in some of these higher end wines.

As Dottie just said, your wines are delicious.

Thank you.

If I said to you that your Chardonnays remind us more of Chablis than of California Chardonnay, would you consider that a compliment or a dis?

That's a great compliment. Thank you, John.

I'd be interested in your thoughts about this, but our feeling about too many California Chardonnays now, even upscale California Chardonnays, is that they don't have enough focus. They don't have that kind of good acidity and good focus and good fruit. Instead, it's almost like they taste often of wood and of sweetness.

That's sad.

And they can be flabby.

Yes. Very flabby. Remember, there was a period of time when Chardonnay became just so over-oaked it was just not drinkable. I remember that time and thought, we've gotta get beyond this. I stopped drinking Chardonnay. It was just too heavy-handed. Frankly, I think that Chardonnay growing in warmer climates. You know how when the grape is ripening, the acid's dropping pretty fast in a warm climate and develops that flabby almost soapiness with the lack of acidity. In places like that, typically people would have to acidulate. I'll always remember at Sanford and Bennett when I had my first grapes. We had acids above one gram per liter in our must, in our grapes. That was unheard of in Napa Valley. My friends there said, "What are you gonna do with this?" I said, "We'll just wait and we'll see." The beauty is that we seldom have to acidulate our wines so that we're working on natural acids. There's no better acid in a wine than the grape acids. Using tartaric or citric doesn't do the same. 

So we've had these beautiful, bright acids in our area. I think that everyone thought, gosh we've gotta give it more oak. Because oak is what gives the quality to the Chardonnay. If you take a blowsy, fat Chardonnay and put it in oak, it's really flabby. But the beauty of our region is that we've got this very bright acid. 

I wish I had brought a map of our region because you've got this remarkable growing region which is this transverse mountain range of California, east and west, opening to the west. We also are surrounded on two sides by the ocean, by the water. In our area of the coast, we've got the Japanese current coming and hitting the coast and upwelling, which creates cool water right along the coast. With the winds coming off the warm Pacific over this cool coastal water, we've got a lot of fog on the edge of the beach. That fog comes inland at night and then goes out during the day. I like to call it refrigerated sunshine. We're really at the latitude of the Mediterranean in our region. I go to the Willamette Valley to see my friends and it's 96 degrees in the summertime and I say, "How could you grow Pinot Noir in Algeria?" They're not amused.

I bet they're not.

I say that kiddingly. But the reality is that in our region, and it's very special, just this one little area has this fog cover. Our peak temperatures are about 12:30 in the afternoon. Because usually temperatures will elevate until after noon when they peak out. But because our coastal situation and our breeze coming off the ocean, peak is about 12:30. Then it begins to cool down.

Then it cools.

Even though we're at the latitude of the Mediterranean, southern Italy, we've got the coolness of further north. So it's a very unusual climate. Perfect for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, frankly.

Do you think you'll ever retire?

Can't afford to. No, I don't think. You know what, I'm very lucky to have found something that resonated so well with me and in my lifetime. I'm 77 and I look forward to being in the vineyard, look forward to tasting the wine and being involved. 

How'd you meet Thekla? 

On a sailboat in Santa Barbara Harbor.

Really.

Yes. I used to do a lot of sailing when I was in college. In fact, that's been an important part of my whole history because through sailing I met people who introduced me to other people in the country club, who then introduced me to people who invested in my early enterprise.

Did you meet Michael through sailing?

Well, yes, in fact I did. 

That's how you met?

We were sailing about the same time together in Santa Barbara in the '60s. 

We've been together for 45 years and let me ask you the same question that people always ask us. This year is your 40th anniversary.

Gosh, I sure don't know. 

Don't forget. Oh my heavens. I'm glad I brought it up so you can put it on the calendar. You got married in '78.

This is our 40th anniversary.

So what's the secret?

Oh boy. To be humble, I think. And to be open. And love is so important. And the lack of possessiveness is important. I'm lucky to have discovered this spirit of wu wei and the Taoist belief system, to be open to the possibilities. It's been hard. It's been particularly hard because of our financial situation and it continues to be. There's no getting around it. Sadly for us, those millions of dollars ... I always remember looking at the balance sheet when we were doing really well and selling 50,000 cases a year. Then we went through the ... I remember when money cost 20%. Remember? 

That's when we got our first apartment. We paid 16 and three quarters percent.

Wasn't that hard? That was a really tough period of time. Well, we weathered that. I'll tell you. The recession in 2005, '06, '08, that period of time. It was really very hard for us. Frankly, it didn't really matter what we had on the balance sheet; it all went away. It was all funny money anyway. It was great to have the money at the time. I wish it weren't so now, but sadly that's the case. 

We were talking earlier about long-term winery ownership, Heitz and that sort of thing. I think it's hard in our country for family dynasties to be in the wine business as it is in Europe. The tax issues and inheritance issues and that sort of thing. I think it's very challenging. Sadly I don't think we're going to have these long, long-term wine families like the Europeans do. 

That is sad.

My wife would hate me in saying so, but I appreciate so much of proprietorship because I see so much just being owned by investment funds now. An investment fund doesn't have the same empathy to wine that we might have. I think that's hard long term. Hard for our culture and hard for the planet.

Do you think that you could do what you did today, starting out today?

Boy, that would be tough, wouldn't it? Because of the cost of land. I was just talking to my wife yesterday about, you know how comfortable we were 40 years ago, that things were pretty stable and life was going to be stable for us.

I remember those days. I do. I remember those.

But look what's happened in that time. And what I recognize and I was talking to her about is that it's a continuum of change. Everything's always changing. I had the most remarkable experience yesterday. I went to the black African parade in Harlem. I had the best time. I just love the people. It gives me tears to think about because the people are important. Investment funds don't get that part. It's hard. 

You seem like a man at peace with himself. That's a wonderful thing, it's a wonderful place to have arrived.

Yes, what can you do? That's all you have, particularly with the storms that we've weathered. But there's hope, you know. I think the important thing is to get over our own self-importance. You know, get over ourselves, and look toward other inputs, other benefits rather than ego. The super-ego has ruined so many people. That's the challenge of being human isn't it?

 

Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher conceived and wrote The Wall Street Journal's wine column, "Tastings," from 1998 to 2010. Dorothy and John have been tasting and studying wine since 1973. Dottie has had a distinguished career in journalism as a reporter, editor, columnist and editorial writer at The Miami Herald and The New York Times as well as at The Journal. John was Page One Editor of The Journal, City Editor of The Miami Herald and a senior editor at Bloomberg News. They are well-known from their books and many television appearances, especially on Martha Stewart's show, and as the creators of the annual, international "Open That Bottle Night" celebration of wine and friendship. The first bottle they shared was André Cold Duck. They have two daughters.

 

Read more from Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher on Grape Collective

 

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