Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

Get Caught Trying

By Doug Fabiolli

A few months ago I heard a phrase that caught my attention: “If it goes wrong, at least I’ll get caught trying.” On the other hand, the great mentor Yoda says “Do or do not. There is no try,” but as a farmer, I have been challenged by these words of the wise one numerous times. Farming is all about trying: trying, failing, trying again (and again), and learning—both from your own failures and successes and from others who know better. It’s true that sometimes trying to make something better can make things worse. But not trying means that no effort will be made and, whatever the situation, other forces will define the outcome.

In the vineyard, trying to grow grapes is quite an undertaking. I have known people who planted wild wines, spent no money on a deer fence, and had no plan for the diseases and pests that would attack their plants. I guess you could say they tried, but they didn’t try to learn anything from experts or from research first. Trying in this situation is just wasting lots of time, effort, and resources because they chose not to try learning first. There are times in the vineyard, like when an impending frost is in the forecast and the vines are at a vulnerable point in the spring, when I will try anything and everything to keep the plants from getting damaged. Burning brush piles might help add a degree or two of warmth to the vines or it might be a wasted effort, but at least I’ll try. Trying is putting energy out there and hoping some good comes from it.

In the winery, trying something new can have dire consequences if the effort is not thought through first. Sometimes a wine in the cellar will show a problem or a flavor that is not desirable. We learn early on in winemaking classes to do trials of possible treatments on small samples, with a control sample as well. Once you treat a wine with a fining agent, filter it, blend it, add acid, or attempt any other process, there is no way to undo that action. So we do these treatments on a small sample of the wine in order to find the best way to improve the wine without messing up the whole batch. Comparing the treated samples with the control sample lets you see how or if it worked. Did the effort help the wine, hurt the wine, or make no difference? And at what level would any of those treatments make the necessary difference without losing the quality of the wine? Not everything works, but chances are something will, so you try.

In the vineyard, in the cellar, and in the rest of the world trying is a good thing. Putting forth effort to do good, improve quality, avoid waste, and improve a situation for yourself and others is good, and knowing what you are getting into so that you don’t make the situation worse is important. If you don’t try you cannot succeed. An effort can fail but you can succeed the next time because of what you learned from the failure. Yoda may have a point in the Jedi world, but here on earth we live with a learning curve. Try, learn, improve, and then teach what you’ve learned along the way.

With that theme in mind, The New Ag School will be starting our “Think Outside” education program on Saturday mornings at 9am beginning March 26 at Fabbioli Cellars. This is an education program focused on middle school and high school-aged kids, teaching them practical work skills, leadership, and showing them the opportunities in the agriculture world of Western Loudoun. The skills they will learn transfer easily to other fields and to life in general. For more information and to sign up go to newagschool.org. We hope to see you on the farm. It’s always worth a try!

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