What’s in a Name?

Hollow: Term generally used to describe deep dips and valleys on a given plot of land.  Also pronounced “holler” in some parts of the world.

To most people, it may seem contrary to use the term “hollow” for anything wine related.  For one, as an adjective, hollow can be used to describe something that is a lifeless void, sheer emptiness.  It doesn’t take a seasoned wine taster to realize that it would not be a compliment if someone were to take a sip of wine and declare “this is an unusually hollow vintage”.  Even more experienced connoisseurs that have visited vineyards or tried to plant a few vines will know that a hollow is one of the last places you would want to attempt it (next to swamp, desert, and tundra, respectively).

You see, grapes are a unique plant in that they actually thrive where most everything else will meet despair.  Heavy amounts of sand in the soil? Perfect. Negligible amounts of black dirt? Sign me up. Very little land to work with filled with hills and rivers? Sounds like Europe.  Generally speaking, grapes are more worried about the climate, topography (land layout), and water drainage than about the particularities of the soil.

Climate: The best climates for grapes are moderate throughout the year without drastically hot/dry summers or frigid winters.  France and Italy are situated perfect in Europe (but the Germans put Riesling on the map!) California, Missouri (couldn’t help it), and Washington have the best climate mix in the US.

Topography: Grapes prefer the highest points of the surrounding land.  This is beneficial because of water drainage (see below) and air flow.  Cold air tends to hang around and get trapped at the lowest points of land, which means moisture sticks to grapes and leads to a whole onslaught of disease issues.  Generally, the further away from trees the better. 

Water Drainage: Quite simply, grapes don’t like wet feet.   Water is necessary, but vines don’t need to swim in the stuff.  The roots of grapes need to work hard and grow deep and wide in search of water and nutrients.  Spoiling the vines with too much water and not enough work leads to unproductive, lazy roots that never produce grapes to full potential. 

I spell this all out because as you can see, a cold shady hollow is not a grape growing paradise.  To some marketing gurus, it is also a mistake to use a family name for a label or business.  Especially in wine; we should be using some combination French or Italian words to speak to our sophistication, or a cute little critter to show how fun our wine is (critter wines are any wine that uses some kind of animal on the label. Look around the wine section; it can be a regular zoo).  Neither is the case for us.

No, Dale Hollow speaks to much more than a simple adjective or geographical makeup.  There is something mystical about wine when it is fully experienced and enjoyed.  To the French, this is summed up in the word terroir (ter-wahr).

Terroir: Sense of place. A wine gets its individuality from a combination of climatic conditions, soil, topography, and native growth.  Throughout history it was noted that grapes grown using the same methods but in different regions, vineyards, or even sections of vineyards could taste and smell remarkably different. 

Despite the fact that we at Dale Hollow are not the most refined lot you will ever find, I simply love the idea of terroir and the spirit of individuality in wine.  Tasting the same varietal from different vineyards lets you pick up on subtle differences in the landscape.  Working with a little help from a higher power, the vintners work is to transform those grapes into a unique wine.  It is this very uniqueness and the experiences with it that have allowed me to connect to all the romanticized portrayals of wine.  Martin Luther once said that “beer is made by men, but wine by God”.

This has not led to any kind of notable sophistication though, I will add.  Anyone that knows my brother and I can rest assured we will not be a fancy group and the air will be far from stuffy.  French terms will be kept to a minimum.  If we were music we would be alternative, and if we were a story it would be written with imagination.

As shown in the previous post, wine is an experience, and experience lends to memories.  This experience is enhanced by the people surrounding you, food you are eating, and even the mood you are in.  This is the type of magic we want to create and as crazy (and old-world enraging) as it sounds, we are simply thrilled to explore the terroir in Missouri.  We hope to bring out the rolling oak and dogwood lined hills laden with the foliage that feeds our famed wildlife, morel potent soil, and hints of primrose, coneflower, and hawthorn at the nose of every sip.

There you have it: experiences, memories, learning, tasting, all in the spirit of fully enjoying wine: a captivating story that is far from having an ending.  The four of us agreed that before we started anything we wanted to have a name for our venture.  We will have to give credit where it is due, and the idea of Dale Hollow goes back to a time before my brother and I were involved with women, except for the only one that matters when you are young, momma.   Her plan for my brother and I was to move out of our bedrooms and up the driveway into the woods where we could have our own houses and families.  At the top of the driveway we could have one of those wooden signs that reads “Dale Hollow”.

Considering what we hold most dear about wine against the back drop of family and friends, we couldn’t think of a better name for the venture.  To us, the origin of the name encompasses all the things we know and love, and we hope to have the terroir of our little slice of paradise reflected in our wine.  With a little luck, the enjoyment, experiences, and memories will follow suit.  It is more than a name to us.

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19 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

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