With few exceptions, knowing is better than not knowing. As they say, "Knowledge is power."
If you believe this as much as I do, then you can understand why some of our historic monsters went to such great lengths to eliminate knowledge and why forward thinkers and the socially conscious would die to preserve and protect it, although those extreme actions seem quite ludicrous these days. Imagine taking a bullet to protect the secret hiding place containing your calculator/abacus, dictionary, typewriter, or copy of Biodynamics for Dummies. Crazy talk. See also:
When I planted my first vines in 2004, I was definitely shooting in the dark, jumping off the deep end, swinging for the fence. Pick one. I had no pool or database of accumulated research, agricultural history, or any relevant experience from which to draw before taking/making said shot/leap/swing. And as such, mistakes were made, poor advice followed, near disasters narrowly averted. Or not. I learned some expensive lessons. And there are still more lessons ahead. I'm keeping records in the Bunker and Chris Turner is keeping records in the field, but time is against us when it comes to establishing patterns and maps by which to navigate. We get one chance a year to get this right. The database is growing, but I sure could use a crystal ball.
Good news. There is hope for that crystal ball on the horizon. On the Clarkdale Campus of Yavapai Community College, that database dream is becoming reality. In 2010, I planted one acre of Negro Amaro next to what used to be the campus racquetball courts. Just before that, YCC began to offer wine appreciation courses, which quickly filled up. Those classes were followed by the addition of viticulture courses, which also filled up. The college now offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in enology and viticulture. The head of that program is Nikki Check, mayor of Jerome and a former Merkin Vineyards employee. And in June of this year, Nikki, with the help of 200 volunteers, planted an additional four acres, with plans to expand that site to a full 28 acres. And that's just the intro. The racquetball courts are soon to be converted into a full production teaching winery known as the Southwest Wine Center. This is huge for not only the Verde Valley but for Arizona viticulture as a whole. As I've mentioned in previous columns, we are decades away from truly establishing an identity as a wine region, but the Southwest Wine Center will shave years off of that search.
This is exactly how U.C. Davis began. They started as a small community college. But even though U.C. Davis is established and their database is extensive, our terroir isn't on their radar. Our hurdles, the nuances of our weather, terrain, soil composition, pests, and predators aren't in the California database. Their information is basically useless to us. We now have the opportunity to establish our own hub of knowledge, our power center.
Are you in need of a job? Let me rephrase that. Are you in need of a valuable craft that will not only put food on your family's table but provide you with inspiration and a reason to get up in the morning? Pay attention. The wine and viticulture industry in our state is growing exponentially. It's in need of a workforce on all levels. Knowledge is Power. Now you know. Now you have no excuse.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Southwest Wine Center: http://southwestwinecenter.org/
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Follow Maynard James Keenan on Twitter: @caduceuscellars, @mjkeenan, @puscifer. Read more of Maynard James Keenan's columns at Up on the Sun.