Wining Philosophical

Philosophical tanks, barrels, and bottles - Halter Ranch Vineyard

The Halter Ranch Headspace


There is a phenomenon within the tasting room which results from the tendency of particular patrons to wax philosophical across the tasting bar in the interest of fomenting discussion.  This post is a sort of homage to said patrons as the discussions they incite are often profound and quite memorable.  So what is it about fermented grape juice that inspires humans toward the cerebral?

It would be inaccurate to imply the only effect of wine is to inspire the mind toward the cerebral, or to lubricate dormant thought process, more accurately it probably functions to…inspire…a variety of behaviors positive, cerebral, and otherwise. For the sake of this article, we will focus on its talent for extracting deep brooding thoughts and encouraging conversation of the conceptually wandering kind.

On that note, let’s take a brief trek back through time to the underpinnings of modern philosophy.  Plato and Aristotle sit across from one another brooding.  Each holds in hand a clay goblet filled with, what else, vino. In this past era wine is generally stored and served from cool clay vessels and is probably sweeter than the majority of modern vinified offerings. 

What spawns from the brood session described above, or from a very similar brooding situation, is a distinction in method and mind that remains present today.  I would even go so far as to say this discrepancy, methodology, mindset, approach, as you like, has gone so far as to infect every aspect of Western culture and modern society even–not to get ahead of myself, or to sound dramatic, at all, ever–so far as to create two distinct ways in which we think about and experience wine.

The distinction involves the method by which we approach thinking about the world, and further, the method by which we express those thoughts about the world.  While the difference is somewhat subtle, I believe it to be fundamental in every aspect of modern and ancient society, which says a lot about the two minds (Plato and Aristotle) that created, or partook in, the initial argument (and actually wrote it down).

The crux of the argument lies primarily in approach, one (#1) of the two philosophers above sees the world as a distant representation of the real.  Thus the concept of space and the nature of matter are malleable, mere imitations of what is actual.  As a result his argument tends to rely on analogy and language games, and ‘records’ of discussion between people (Socrates, Thrasymachus, Maximus, etc) to get the point across. The other (#2) philosopher sees the world and the universe as an entity in a constant, micro and macro, unconscious effort to understand itself.  We, as but small parts of this larger entity may learn of the nature of things only through precise observation, analysis, and record.  His approach is much more dry and scientific.  Can you guess who is who from the preceding description?  Don’t worry, I’ll reveal at the bottom of the article.

Here I will apologize for oversimplification, bear with me you philosophical sticklers out there, I am coming to a point  with regard to philosophy and wine that would not be served by offering a complete dissertation. That said, if you would like to delve deeper or more completely into conversations about these two philosophical titans, my email is  Alternatively feel free come visit me in the tasting room and we can discuss additionally over a glass of Halter Ranch Wine.

Getting back to this meandering tale, the two gentlemen above were a mentor/pupil pair.  They respected one another and discussed the issue of reality out of a genuine interest toward improving not only themselves, but their understanding of the world, and overall human understanding of the world.  This is profound to me in that it indicates a fundamental interest in living, experiencing, and seeking joy in the form not just of understanding, but shared understanding.  This for me is similar to that makes wine, vino, fermented grape juice, nectar of the gods, etc, equally profound.  It is a means of tapping, directly through the senses, into the relationship between this little speck of ecosystem we live on, and the bright shining power source that gives it life.

It is important to note, as modern linguistic philosophers would likely argue, that judgement of right or wrong, in this context, is not what is important.  What is important is that discussion, collaboration, and argument continue from both ends of the spectrum in the hope that knowledge will result for both perspectives.

On this note, I will tell a story.  Recently we had a discussion after work in the tasting room about the virtues of wine and beer, more particularly, a discussion about which of the two we personally prefer to drink. Keep in mind it is our job (every one of us) to sell wine.  Two of my esteemed (I am not being sarcastic) coworkers  expressed vehemently their preference for beer.  My initial reaction was:  “you two just haven’t experienced enough variety in wine.”  to which they responded, “we’d prefer to spend our leisure time imbibing beer.”  The result was the following challenge:

Offer me your favorite beer and foodstuff pairings, and I will find a wine that pairs just as well if not better than your beer selection.  This might seem a bit judgemental, personal, subjective, or arbitrary.  But!  The significance is, regardless of each outcome, every time we embark on a new pairing challenge, each party who partakes will likely experience, or maybe even learn something new.  For me, and I hope for all of us, that is what life, and what wine in all its glory (beer too I guess…), with 10,000 years of history behind it, are all about.  With this in mind, on the brain, in the headspace, etcetera, expect a Wine/Beer challenge post featuring a new and interesting pairing periodically from here on out. The first challenge is to take place twixt various members of the tasting room staff.  A wise friend brought to my attention the horror of presenting a challenge without also touching on what is at stake.  With that in mind: whosoever secures a greater majority of staff approval for their pairing shall receive from the opposing party a bottle (beer or wine) of their choosing.  Expect updates as the challenge proceeds.

For the moment, cheers, and thanks for reading!


Oh wait wait!! I almost forgot the big reveal:

#1 Plato:  Passionate, a little agressive, and dreamy about far off places that are perfect.  His modern grape variety of choice would probably be something like:  Zinfandel.

#2 Aristotle:  Dry as a bone, sharp as a tack, and in it for the long haul toward understanding through observation and experience.  His modern grape variety of choice would probably be something like Nebbiolo.


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