Learning to speak vinacular: Meeting the’great crew’

My career as a wine country reporter started out at the top _ a visit to Harlan Estate, a place that makes small quantities of big wines that routinely win the highest of praise from critics and collectors.

It was one of those situations where, luckily, I was too naive to see how in over my head I was. Although I knew we were someplace special when we found a jag waiting to drive us around the property.

Sadly, that was my first and last time, so far at least, of being chauffered in such style. Winery founder Bill Harlan was the perfect host, giving me a primer on  the basics of high-quality grape growing as well as sharing his vision to create a wine that could compete with the famous chateaux of France.

At least, that’s what I figured out later after carefully going over my tape and looking stuff up. At the time, I wasn’t processing too clearly. I remember writing in my notebook, Wants to create a great crew in California. Made sense to me, I mean, we all need a good work force, right?

Of course, now I know he was talking about creating a California “grand cru,” or “first growth,” the French classification for wine of the highest quality that is awarded to only a few estates.I’m happy to say this was one of those times I resorted to the old smile and nod. Such a useful tool in the reporters’ workbox.Except for the time I interviewed Edward Teller.

But that’s another story.