Twice, recently, I’ve met winemakers who are terrifically fit: Tom Rinaldi, of Provenance Vineyards, and Larry Brooks, who works for Tolosa and other good wineries. They’re in their mid-to-late 40s, at least, and they’re both cyclists. In conversations with the two men it became clear that they saw their exercise regimes as critical to their staying power in their jobs.
Rinaldi in particular talked about winemaking—and especially the tasting aspects of the job—as intensely physically demanding. I was in his barrel aging room at Provenance tasting barrel samples with him when I asked if he knew of any good mountain biking in the area. It turned out he knew a lot. I was reminded of my uncle Jim, who worked as a sales rep for Trefethen and Schramsberg for many years, and is now a buyer for Hi-Time in Costa Mesa, California; tasting hundreds of wines at a time, day after day and week after week, he seemed to become only more serious about exercise. And I guess this is on my mind because of a crossroads in my own life: My love of wine and food has been taking a toll on my health, and I’m not so young myself anymore. Or at least, not so young that I can party and not pay for it. Night after night with multiple bottles open and constant comparisons running for pairing this wine with that dish, I simply can’t bring myself to spit everything. It becomes a ridiculous way to live. So it’s got me looking around, and noticing that the wine world—more so than the food world, I think—is filled with people who have hit a certain moment of judgment and decided that they’re either going to slip into a never-ending slightly alcoholic haze, or develop strong countermeasures. For the time being, my countermeasure has been to spit absolutely everything before dinner, and then consume not more than two glasses while eating. But I’ll admit it seems a little sad, even if I do suddenly feel more alert than I have in over a year.