The Blackbird in the Vineyard…

Le Merle, the blackbird, came to me in a dream last night. It said, “If you get out of my way, I will grow into something beautiful.” It stared directly into my eyes as it spoke and cocked its head from side to side in the most bird-like way.

The dream baffled me. Was it a subconscious replay of a meeting some two decades ago with the Alsatian vigneron Jean-Michel Deiss? As we ended our visit and saying our goodbyes, he offered these words of wisdom: “Follow nature and the rest will come!” At the time, that statement was just as baffling as those of Le Merle, but I have since learned to take his cryptic advice as gospel. Quite simply, work with, not against nature and plant what is appropriate for your land. Then, get out of its way.

In the dark arts, blackbirds symbolize purification, the underworld or our dark nature. That just seems like a bunch of BS… same as my dream. I was hoping to find some ancient allegory to help me tell a story involving nature, blackbirds and a sense of place – but I could find none… so I fabricated one.

You see, “Le Merle” is the root of “Merl-ot” – the black grape of Bordeaux. It was identified in 1784 as a superlative grape for the “Right Bank” regions of Saint Émilion and Pomerol. From there it spread throughout France and the world with varying degrees of success. Merlot is actually a very forgiving grape and good wine can be made from grapes grown in many different micro-climates, but it is sublime when grown in a region it “likes” – one with a clay-based soil and a long, cool growing season where the grapes can develop flavor at lower sugar levels for an elegant, age-worthy, cuisine-oriented wine.

A little birdie once told us that RSV’s organically farmed Carneros Vineyards were the perfect place to let this grape to grow into a beautiful wine. I am glad we listened.

Rob Sinskey

Blackbird by Thomas Bewick (1753–1828)