I’ve been in the wine business since 1972 when I dropped out of MIT and got a job in an Oakland, CA wine shop. I completed the BS and MS programs at UC Davis, built R.H. Phillips in the ‘80’s, and founded Vinovation in 1992, providing high tech services and consulting for over a thousand wineries, originally centered around the reverse osmosis VA and alcohol adjustment techniques I invented.
In 1984 I began teaching a short course at UCD called Fundamentals of Wine Chemistry, which continued for 24 years and was one of their most popular courses, attended by everyone from home winemakers to seasoned professionals. In the early ‘90’s, I began to see cracks in the theories I’d been taught at school, and began to focus on French winemaking aesthetics and techniques. I felt I was making really good white wines and terrible reds, and this led me on a journey to rediscover what red wine itself actually is.
“Smith has a rich and swirling mind that is on display in this both technical and philosophical treaties on modern winemaking the issues that have been pushed to the fore through innovation.” -Tom Wark’s Fermentation 2013-12-18
The technical quality of wine today far surpasses its condition in the 1970s, when half the wines on the shelf had serious technical flaws. Most wine today is competently made, and the challenge has shifted to grasping its vast multiplicity.
Our winemaking philosophy is aligned with the principles of Postmodern Winemaking. We are part of a worldwide courageous cadre of winemakers and growers thoughout the world dedicated to exploring its mysteries. Wine is something ancient and venerated, recognized as sacred in Roman times and long before. But 20th Century ideas have riven the soul from wine and rendered it into a bland commodity. Now we’re getting back to what the ancients knew: that living soil matters, that wine integrates its flavors through refined structure, that when it possesses soulfulness, wine is (as Ben Franklin observed) “proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
Some of my writing addresses what these tools are and their appropriate use, in order to facilitate the openness which exists between winemakers and consumers around more seriously invasive technologies such as electricity and stainless steel. A rethinking of how science can serve our aesthetic work is has given birth to a new view of winemaking, the subject of my book, Postmodern Winemaking.