Hudson Cattell and I sat next to each other in two large
comfortable arm chairs on the balcony overlooking the cocktail party in the
large, three storied lobby of the Lancaster Conference Center, in Lancaster,
PA. We were attending the Eastern
Wineries Exposition 2013. The din of chatter, the clinking of glasses, and the
hushed footsteps of those walked by created an almost impenetrable white noise
difficult to overcome. We talked in stilted conversation, both of u preserving
our feet, having stood all day.
Last year Hudson Cattell capped what was essentially his
Annus Miraculous. He was feted in this same conference center last year,
celebrating a Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to east coast wine. In
that same year, he published with Linda Jones McKee PENNSYLVANIA WINE: A
Cattell’s career is a storied one. Along with Lee Miller he
started Wine East magazine, which he sold not too recently. He started out
young with the wine industry, and essentially knew everyone. He knew or met Philip
Wagner, Dr. Konstantin Frank, Charles Fourenier, Leon Adams, Mark Miller, Hamilton
Montbray of Maryland, and many, many others. He came of age in a time when the
east coast still had as many wineries as California. He came to love wine as
wine was just beginning to take off in the United States. It’s been almost all
upside ever since.
I asked him if there was anyone he didn’t meet whom he
regrets that he did not. He shrugs, and mentions two names lost to history that
fascinated him, but admitted that in the grand scheme of things, the names were
probably not well remembered for a reason.
Hudson had been a ubiquitous presence all day, roaming the
halls with his rumpled suit jacket and wooden cane. He wandered in and out of
one meeting room after another, sampling the air, testing it for information.
In some rooms he sat down. In others he waited, as if a bus was coming, and
then left like he forgot he had an appointment somewhere else.
More than anything, the news to me, and to all of us, was
that Hudson is working on his magnum opus. His ultimate work. For Cornell
University he is writing the history of wine on the east coast. From Maine to
Florida to the Mississippi, Cattell will tell the story of wine on the right
coast, from prohibition to the present day.
I asked him a half-dozen questions, the upstart journeyman
peppering his better with questions and thoughts, trying to pry out the wisdom
locked within. He was obliging and polite, like an old tired dog who tolerates
an unyielding puppy. Around the time for dinner, Hudson suggested we get to the
diningroom lest we not get good seat. No problem. Hudson was whisked away to
the prime table to sit that night with the more important members of the
audience, among them Howard Bursen, winemaker from Greenvale Winery(?), and
Doug Moorehead, that night’s honoree, owner of Presque Isle. I was left to
wonder, several guests whom had guaranteed to save me a seat were not able to
hold their promises, and I was left wondering the dining room looking for a
place to land when Richard Leahy invited me to his table. Turns out I was with
Hudson and Doug and Howard.
Douglas Moorehead was in the Army, stationed in Germany,
after the Korean War had ended but before Vietnam had started. After a two year
stint, he came back to the US and decided he wanted to make wine…wines as good
as the ones he’d tasted while stationed in Europe. Doug, along with others, pressed
the Pennsylvania legislature to pass a Farm Winery Act in that state. He was
its main proponent. Pennsylvania was amongst the first to pass such
legislation. Now it was time to do something about it.
Almost five decades ago, Frederick Johnson (Johnson Estate)
and Doug Moorehead (Presque Isle Winery) pioneered the establishment of French-hybrid
and vinifera vineyards, which are also happy in this terroir, especially those
with Germanic roots, and they are increasingly being planted for the growing
But there was another problem: buying equipment. Back then
there were only large wineries. Small wineries had no small suppliers with whom
to deal, so Doug began to sell winemaking supplies and equipment and soon
started supplying a fledgling east coast industry.
Two generations of winemakers have relied on his advice and
understanding, and the resounding phrase, “Ask Doug,” has been the catch phrase
for hundreds of winemakers from the east and mid-west.
Doug is funny, self-effacing guy who has lots of great
stories. He attended college with Rosie Greer, famed defensive lineman of the
New York Giants and later of the Los Angeles Rams. “Nicest man you ever met,”
says Doug. Doug knows or has supplied just about everyone in the industry in
his lifetime. He is a treasure trove of stories.
And let me tell you, even after a full day of lectures and
roundtables, and an evening of festivities, Hudson, and Doug, and Richard, and
Howard were all there, Art Hunt too, at an after-hours party, with David Flacheck (great wine
writer from Pennsylvania) and Richard Leahy laying down some incredible wines!
During the course of the day stories were passed around
about Ham Montbray, Philip Wagner, and Dr. Frank. Lots of quick little stories
and lots of laughter. The night was filled with one great story after another,
all told with a glass of wine in hand.
But it occurred to me, I really can’t wait for Hudson’s
book….because there are all these great folks involved in the east coast wine
industry. A whole generation is passing or passed. And someone who was there
needs to set it all down.