The Blind Side

There’s an old Hollywood adage, famously coined by screenwriter William Goldman that when it comes to predicting which movies will succeed and which will fail, “Nobody Knows Anything.”  To wit:  Columbia Pictures passed on the chance to produce “Star Wars”, leaving the plucky sci-fi movie to Fox, thereby losing out on billions of dollars in revenue.  They did however say yes to “Close Encounters” which earned them about the same amount of money (at the time) while it was 20th Century Fox that said no to Spielberg’s masterpiece.

Even more telling is that in asking studio executives of the era about their choices, they commented that if they’d said “yes” to everything they said “no” to and vice versa, they’d have pretty much ended up in the same place.  Put another way you can’t over or under-estimate the public when it comes to what they like.  They just do.

This proved to be true the other night at a dinner party where we did a blind tasting of various wines.  Now I’ve been an advocate of blind tastings many times before and while part of me still believes it’s the only fair way to gauge a wine, I’m now second guessing that in favor of Mr. Goldman’s assessment.  That when it comes to the evaluation of any subjective thing, the only person who does know anything is you.

There’s no need to get into the details of the tasting but I will tell you that the wine I brought – I wine I was a fan of and still am –  a Pinot from New Zealand called, Latitude 41 scored the lowest of seven wines (I had it as my third worse) or that a 2007 CA Cab from Jam Cellars was far and away everyone’s favorite.

What really struck me was that in looking at the scores of the individual wines, the loser I brought was scored (on the ubiquitous 100 pt. scale) by one person as 100 and by another as 1.  Holy swing, Batman!

And it was then and there, in a suburban kitchen, that I realized all this hand-wringing over scores/reviews of anything that isn’t decided by a clock or a scoreboard is a wasted exercise; whether you are trying to evaluate a wine, a building by I.M. Pei or a Hollywood movie, nobody does know anything.  And anyone who leaves their own choices to someone else is missing out on one of the true pleasures of freedom, the ability to do so for oneself.  I know too many people who won’t buy a wine that scores under a 90 (and I bet you do too) or takes the word of (fill in wine reviewer’s name here) as gospel.

I now realize, more than ever, the best wines in the world, the ones that get my 100 points, are the ones I like.  And that makes any number of wines I drink better than anything you drink no matter what’s on the label, who scored it or what its provenance.

The Founders envisioned a world of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  So from now on I suggest you embrace the things you like, be it a no name $6.00 wine from Slovenia or a nonsensical movie set in 2154 where science has made it possible to telekinetically leap into the body of a blue alien but the weapon of choice is still a bullet.

At the end of the day, no one knows anything but you.

Published in: on February 24, 2010 at 10:43 am  Comments (6)  

Don’t Know Much About a Science Book…

As a work at home dad, the daily grind of my kid’s homework falls on me.  This was a fairly easy task in kindergarten, first and even second grade.  Now though, as third has kicked in, more and more I’m realizing that I can’t help.

Oh, I’ll sit and try and figure out that if Mary has forty-eight strawberries and thirty-six oranges and gives two of each to her classmates, how many will each girl receive.  And I thought I used to know that if you were adding an apostrophe to the end of “children” to signify possession it was children’s (or is it childrens’).  But the truth is I don’t remember and have generally left it up to my son whether it’s correct or not.  He’s usually right.

But it brings up the age old question, one that can only be contemplated by adults in the work force, just how much of this elementary learning will be truly useful to our kids in the next decade of their lives?  As I go about my everyday to do list, math is handled by computer programs that calculate anything I need, be it inventory management or sales tax in Texas.  Grammar check assists me when I say “their” but meant “they’re” and frankly, the only bits of my education that can be used in my winery life is, well, if I think of something I’ll get back to you.

I often joke that the only people who really need higher education are doctors and lawyers and most of us find ourselves in  other fields by the time our parents kick us out – the first or second time – to “get a job.”

Certainly I’m not advocating the end of the education system as we know it – though many would argue it’s already dead and buried.  But ask my sons what they want to be when they grow up and as of right now it’s a hockey and soccer player respectively.  What did I want to be?  A movie director.  Instead I found myself running a software company and now a winery.  And of all the great people I’ve worked alongside and continue to share my day with, not one of them used GPS to get there.  Meaning we all find our path eventually.

The wine business has traditionally been a family affair.  Maybe there is something profound in wine’s simplicity, a je ne sais qua, that coupled with an inability to understand the square root of Pi, draws the offspring back to the nest.

So, do I secretly hope my kids end up alongside me with their “virtual” laptops (or whatever Apple has in store for us by 2020) ready to release the new vintages?  Yeah, I kind of do.

It’s way too quiet without them here during the day.  So much so that I can’t wait to do homework…

Published in: on February 16, 2010 at 2:22 pm  Comments (1)