This is a story of something that happens within the wine business, where everyone in the business knows about it, but nobody’s talking.

The concept for me dates back to my childhood, and a mannerism that my grandfather taught me. The parallel behavior is the same, the names of the characters and place of the story have just been changed in order to protect the innocent…

Isn’t it funny how our grandparents teach us so many lessons that stay with us for life; but, at the time of the learning, we were all just having fun?

When I was a kid, I lived in Maine. We had summer property on Sabattus, Maine. (My brother Peter now owns the land, and lives there year round.) Each summer, we’d pack up our summer duds and head “out to camp.” It was idyllic and I now realize how very lucky I was to have these summers of complete content with lots and lots of swimming and water skiing (thanks Paul Labrecque).

My grandfather Pipi – I don’t know when – found this truly amazing blueberry patch. This was in the town of Wales, Which probably had a few hundred year round residences, and you’d have to drive far and wide to find them. Somehow Pipi had found a high-bush blueberry patch on the top of a hill, in the back of the only school in Wales (at the time). About once or twice a week he’d drive us to the top of that hill, and we’d all wear cleaned-out paint pales with a string attached to it (so our hands were completely free), and we’d pick these blueberries to bring back to my grandmother Mimi. She’d – in turn – make the most delicious blueberry cobbler on the face of the planet.

During this blueberry picking process, we couldn’t utter a single word. Why? Because someone else in Wales might hear us and find this ultra premium blueberry patch. Remember, though, we were on top of a hill, out in the woods, in the back of a school during the summer, with no one around within six miles. But, we had to be very, very quiet.

This scenario still exists today, but my experience with the Hush-Hush Blueberry patch is now called a Hush-Hush vineyard. And, instead of the blueberries going into an amazing cobbler, the grapes are going into wonderful bottles of wine.

I know of incredible brands buying grapes from Suisun Valley, but when asked to make that statement of quality for an endorsement, some vintners would rather say that these grapes just don’t cut it.  If they were to say, for instance – “These grapes are the very best grapes I can get for the price coming from the North Coast AVA” – this kind of endorsement would help the local grape growers to get better recognition for their efforts. That, in turn, would begin to create a higher demand. The increased demand would cause their grapes prices to be more rewarding, by being able to increasing their prices. A few of these grape buyers aren’t willing to say anything close to that, protecting their private patch. This attitude, however, begs a couple of questions:

  1. If these grapes are so sub standard, when we get that response, why would you even buy them, Mr. Vintner?
  2. Don’t you make wine that you will then turn around and market its virtues as being the best of the best that you were able to obtain?

Ah…. The ‘ole Hush-Hush Blueberry Patch syndrome is still alive and well. I guess it’s also the same as a private fishing hole. Don’t tell anybody, because the fish – blueberries or grapes – will disappear, and you’ll have to discover another source for your fabulous find.