Vale, James McKinnon Watts (27.8.32-19.5.17)
This is perhaps not a name well known among wine folk outside McLaren Vale, but within medical circles it is recognised far and wide. James (Jim) was a man that many men, myself included, aspire to be, and most fail. He was hugely talented and successful in whatever field he entered. He also exuded empathy and warmth in conversation – qualities that are rare and should be better recognised in today’s mad, mad world.
I only knew Jim via wine, and Fox Creek Winery, but his life before was fascinating and worth reading about in an obituary written by his daughter Kristin. For anyone feeling in need of inspiration, it’s worth checking out.
If a life is worth living, Jim’s worth to life was immense. Wine, without disparaging the subject, or Fox Creek, could be considered the smallest of Jim’s achievements, and if that was the smallest, just how big were the others?
Putting achievements to one side, I found Jim confident (as one would expect), quiet and with a rather wicked, wry sense of humour. He once asked me what I would do with a family company such as Fox Creek. After considering my lengthy opinions, he said: “Or I could sell it.” He never did, and the family remains deeply involved.
The first winemakers were daughter Sarah and her husband, Sparky Marquis, who went on to establish Mollydooker Wines. Son Paul helped establish the vineyards, daughter Georgie looks after cellar door, and until recently her husband, Paul Rogers, was CEO. Kristin is on the board and takes responsibility for customer relations and direct sales.
Along with daughters and son, there are many grandchildren, who will be saddened at Jim’s death. No words about Jim would be complete without mention of Helen, his wife of six decades, a remarkable woman married to a remarkable man, who shared and helped shape a remarkable life.
The Langton’s Tony Keys benefit auction starts today. I’m told there are some great wines up for grabs. At the time of writing I have the scantest knowledge of what is on offer, so will be as interested as any to see what has been donated. Whatever it is, I thank you for your generosity.
It’s that time of year where annual wine guides start to appear. Out this week is Tyson Stelzer’s Australian and New Zealand Wines of the Year 2017. In the final stages of production is James Halliday’s Wine Companion 2018, due out August. It amuses me how flexible years can be. Looking through Tyson’s selection of wines, which he divides into several price sectors, one would be hard pressed to say any of them didn’t deserve inclusion. But then there’s also a heap more not there that deserve to be.
At the end of the day it has to be realised that this is just one bloke’s pick. I hold the opinion that guides are more about promoting the author then they are the wines, but that could be considered cynical. Having said that, I do admire the bravery of picking a wine of the year, or winemaker of the year, or anything else of the year. To be honest, I’m not game to do it.
I was going to pen a few words on the release from Wine Communicators of Australia, in association with the Department of Primary Industries and Regions SA, announcing a “Wine Media Cadetship”.
But I found Philip White did it so much better. To quote Whitey: “So it’s a public relations affair, really. Just what this business needs. My arse.” The full article here
In contrast to Whitey’s acerbic, interesting and witty article, the biggest load of self-glorifying claptrap masquerading as wine writing in the past week appeared in The Eastern Reporter on 6 June, written by John Jens.
Be smart, drink well.