At your new Popelouchum vineyard near San Juan Bautista, California, your plan is to breed thousands of new wine grape varieties. Why?
For a lot of reasons! One, it's going to be really fun. Plus I might discover something new and different, with a flavor that didn't exist before. Also, I could potentially find an interesting grape that might be well suited to a changing climate, as one possibility. And this next reason may be a little more difficult to explain, but I'm a lover of wines of place, which is what I hope to make here. Everything else is pretty much beside the point.
What's the Randall Grahm definition of a "wine of place"?
A wine so distinctive it could only have come from the place where it was grown. It has a signature, a fingerprint that's independent of the will of the winemaker. Take Chambertin, the grand cru in Burgundy. You have many different winemakers, and they all have their own interpretations, but there's always some Chambertin-ness that comes through in each of those wines where you can say, "Ah ... that's clearly Chambertin!"
But Chambertin—all of Burgundy, really—has had hundreds of years to figure that out.
Exactly. So the question is: How do you create a wine of place in California in a short lifetime? It seemed to me that if you make a wine that's a blend of 2,000 or 3,000—or 10,000—genetically distinct varieties, then the character of any one specific variety won't be present anymore. All you have left is a symphonic expression of the land. Or, unfortunately, noise, randomness and cacophony.