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From Farmer to Steward: Andy Beckstoffer’s CIA Hall of Fame Speech

Wine
05.13.2010

Andy Beckstoffer Yes, this happened over two months ago, but when you’re as unorganized and road weary as I am these things temporarily slip through the cracks. Today though, we revisit the momentous occasion of W. Andrew Beckstoffer of Beckstoffer Vineyards getting inducted into the The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) Hall of Fame. Beckstoffer reflected on the advances in thinking and practices that he’s observed during his time in the wine business, and his speech can be viewed below.

There have been 28 inductees since the program began in 2007, with other 2010 inductees including Bonny Doon Mastermind/Issue #8 Mutineer Interviewee Randall Grahm, wine historian and author Leon Adams, Al Brounstein of Diamond Creek (one of my all-time favorite wineries), and viticulturalist Zelma Long.

We have come a long way in the last 40 years. We have advanced from being farmers to being viticulturalists to winegrowers and now we have become environmentally sensitive stewards of the land. We, as independent entrepreneurial grapegrowers, have become full partners in the social, political, and economic fabric of our community and the wine industry. We have brought the farmworkers along with us to an important, if unfinished, extent.

We have faced multiple economic crises including two already in this 21st Century and we have survived and prospered.

Just 40 years ago, the Napa County Agricultural Preserve was established through the vision of the industry, the pioneering ordinances of county government, and the vote of the people of the cities.

We are now insuring the continuing preservation of agricultural land by placing conservation easements on some of our best vineyard lands. It is a miracle that Napa’s agriculture remains the primary use of county lands in the populous San Francisco Bay Area, but it has!

We have endured the ravages of phylloxera in the vineyards and emerged with greater grape and wine quality and economic profit. Faced with the need to address the pest infestation, we undertook an environmentally sensitive solution replacing rootstocks and not using toxic materials. We took the opportunity not only to upgrade our rootings but also our varietal clones, our vineyard design, viticultural practices and yield expectations, and thus we became leaders in the world redefining grape and wine quality.

Our vineyard yields declined and our grape and wine quality improved as did the economics of our business enterprise as our wines now consistently rank with the best in the world.

We have experienced a winemaking and marketing shift from undefined “Reserves” to one that emphasizes the land through “Vineyard Designates”. As vineyards become more important, so does their preservation.

We developed grape pricing formulas that first brought profitability to the land and stability to the market. They then resulted in growers and vintners working together striving for highest quality grapes and wine and the resulting higher-priced wines in which both share. Finally, as wine prices rose, grape prices rose and stable revenues began to return to the land as well as the brand. Vineyards became the long term highest and best economic use of the land and thus agriculture can be preserved.

All of this would not have been possible without the diligence of the grapegrowers and the encouragement, assistance, and insistence of a new breed of winemaker. There is much to be thankful for and many growers and vintners who deserve to share the credit.

It is a great honor to be inducted into the Vintner’s Hall of Fame. I thank you for me and my family, my co-workers and farmworkers and all the family grapegrowers of Napa and the North Coast of California. This honor will propel us to continue aggressive adaptation of modern vineyard and business techniques to produce more and better winegrapes, and most importantly, to become better stewards of the land.

– W. Andrew Beckstoffer, March 13, 2010



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