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Editor's Letter


Talking Technology; Looking East

September 2008
by Jim Gordon
Winemakers often take pride in the simplicity of their craft, and they should. How many times have you told your consumers or a journalist that to make the best wine, you simply take the best grapes and try not to screw them up? That's a truism, but you know better than your customers that it's not as simple as it sounds.

Growing the best grapes takes more than a great site. Making the best wine takes more than good barrels and sanitation. It takes technology, and more and more it takes high technology. Five articles in this issue address the advantages that the latest high-tech breakthroughs in our field can bring to your grapegrowing, winemaking and marketing efforts.

Tom Ulrich's cover story, "The Secret Life of DNA", about putting the grape genome to good use is a perfect example. He tracked down three important ways that academia and the wine industry already have used the 1-year-old grape genome map to accelerate work in the nursery and the lab.

The Carmody McKnight Estate in Paso Robles, Calif., exemplifies the use of high-tech methods to analyze a vineyard property vine by vine and shovel by shovel for optimum quality. Owner Gary Conway didn't stop there, says writer Laura Ness (see "Terroirists Dig Deeper"). He then took that data and created high-end wines from the ground up, using fruit from very specific parts of the vineyard.

If you ship wine directly to customers in other states, you know that shipping compliance is a pain. Our stalwart writer and columnist Tim Patterson ("Curing Compliance Headaches") helps you gauge when the pain is intense enough to seek professional help--in this case, shipping compliance software and related services.

Did you ever wish your wine, like a family member, could call home so you know how it's doing? That's basically what RFID technology (radio frequency identification) can now do for vintners. Suzanne Gannon reports in "Paging Vintage 2005" that producers of collectible wines, especially, are finding RFID tags practical to keep tabs on bottles that have left the building.

Contributors Jeff Morgan and Daniel Moore also weigh in on technology in their column Morgan & Moore. They advise not to fear the future, but to embrace it, because some of today's innovations will become tomorrow's winemaking traditions.

Welcome Wine East readers

The staff of Wines & Vines welcomes new members to the family in this issue, as Wine East magazine makes its debut within our pages. An information-packed section of 16 pages starts on page 54 and is devoted to grapegrowing and winemaking on the eastern side of North America. The 27-year-old wine industry magazine owned and edited by Hudson Cattell and Linda Jones McKee has joined forces with Wines & Vines to continue bringing insightful reporting on that region's vast and growing wine districts.

It's great to have Hudson, Linda and a number of their regular writers, such as enologist Richard Carey (see his probing article on a new, low-cal sweeter wine), in our pages. We are equally happy to welcome Wine East subscribers as new readers of Wines & Vines, and to welcome many eastern advertisers who now have their own showcase in our publication.

Wines & Vines has been produced in California since its founding in 1919, but our editors have long understood that winegrowing east of the Rockies is an important part of the North American wine industry. While a majority of our readers makes wine on the West Coast, nearly 45% of you work in the rest of the continent.

Further, we appreciate, as Hudson points out in his column, that most eastern growers and winemakers face tougher challenges than their counterparts on the usually sunny and dry West Coast. To address those needs, we plan to bring more frequent and more relevant news and advice than before to our eastern readers with the help of the folks from Wine East.

Finally, since this is September, here's wishing all of our readers a big but not too big harvest, and one of unprecedented high quality!
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