Jerry Lockspeiser recently interviewed me for Harpers Wine & Spirits, the UK drinks industry publication. You can read the online version here. Enjoy!
Jerry Lockspeiser recently interviewed me for Harpers Wine & Spirits, the UK drinks industry publication. You can read the online version here. Enjoy!
This is the last in a series of columns about Walla Walla’s wine industry. I previously proposed that Walla Walla has “come of age” as a leading wine region. How did it happen? No single factor can explain it all. Previous columns have examined two of the five “pillars” of the region’s success, the Land and the People. In this final column I’ll quickly discuss history, culture and what I call “the spark.”
The Fifth Element
“You Florentines are the fifth element,” Pope Boniface VIII proclaimed in 1300, reflecting a popular view of the unique contributions of Florentine citizens. Earth, air, water, and fire could be combined by all men to produce the simple goods of everyday life. But when the Florentine “fifth element” was added, a new and more creative alchemy was possible.
These lines back appeared in my 1990 book Mountains of Debt, which told the story of financial crisis in Renaissance Florence, Victorian Britain and Postwar America. I repeat them here because it seems to me that a modern day papal visit to Walla Walla might produce a similar sort of comment (although the current pope might include a reference to Malbec since he’s originally from Argentina).
I don’t mean to flippantly compare today’s Walla Wallans to the great artists of the Italian Renaissance, but it is true that Walla Walla wine is having something of its own renaissance and the Fifth Element, which I earlier called “the spark,” is certainly part of the story.
It is a property of the fifth element, if we take Florence as a model, that if it exists it is not in one person but everywhere within the culture that supports it and you can see that in Walla Walla today, which is bustling and growing in terms of its wine industry after a few hard Great Recession years.
The group that I call The Pioneers clearly had that fifth element spark — creative, entrepreneurial, determined. They started wineries but they also helped build the industry in many other ways — I think of Myles Anderson’s efforts to breathe life into the Walla Walla Community College Viticulture and Enology program must be recognized, for example. That program provides an affordable way for a surprisingly diverse group of students to prepare for immediate employment in the wine sector. It has helped power the growth of the industry here and throughout the region.
Christophe Baron’s “discovery” of the rocky vineyard sites in Milton-Freewater get a lots of attention — perhaps only a crazy Frenchman (a “bionic frog” according to one of his wine labels) could have built Cayuse into the cult wine that it is. Now that I have walked the vineyards and tasted the wines, I have to admit that the fuss is justified. Christophe must have a bit of the Florentine in him.
All important wine-growing regions must at some point go through a time when many creative people combine to create a new reality and identity and it is easy to see the renaissance in Walla Walla today.
The Black Prince
Walla Walla’s current blossoming has deep roots — deeper than most probably suspect. The first vines were probably planted (and wines made) about 200 years ago by French Canadians who settled in these parts between 1812 and 1821. Walla Walla was an outpost of the Hudson Bay Company empire in those days and, although there is no proof of vines and wines, everything we know about how the French Canadians behaved elsewhere suggests that a permanent settlement would not be wine-free.
We know for sure that there were wines and vines about 150 years ago because there is evidence that the early settlers in the valley planted vines and even organized grape nurseries using plants imported from Oregon. Frank Orselli, a native of Luca, Italy, came to Walla Walla in 1859, according to Ronald Irvine’s history of Washington wine, The Wine Project, part of an important Italian influence that can still be seen today. The wine industry thrived along with Walla Walla until the Northern Pacific Railroad construction by-passed the town in 1883, diverting growth elsewhere.
The wine didn’t go away, of course, and we were fortunate to see evidence of those Italian winegrowers when Kevin Pogue took us on a visit to the Rocks vineyard area. There, growing wild on the side of the road, where Cinsault grapes that someone still took the time to tend and harvest. Cinsault — Black Prince grapes they were called. Gary Figgins, whose winery is named Leonetti for the Italian side of his family who farmed and made wine here, is credited with tracking down the Black Prince’s true title. Cinsault is still grown in Walla Walla and wine is made. You will get a big smile from the locals if you ask for it!
A Creative Culture
Culture is the last of the five “pillars” of Walla Walla’s renaissance and you can see it all around you when you visit, especially downtown where a cluster of tasting rooms have erupted with cafes, restaurants and shops to support them.
We met two people who seem to represent the cultural renaissance in this area. Dan Thiesen is executive director of the culinary arts program at the Wine County Culinary Institute at Walla Walla Community College. Under Dan’s leadership this program has blossomed, creating affordable opportunities for those seeking culinary training and providing skilled professionals for the region’s expanding food scene.
We had two meals prepared by Dan’s talented students and had the opportunity to hear him speak about the world class program that he is building. The sky’s the limit for this program and the food-wine pairings it supports.
We also met with Joan Monteillet of Monteillet Fromagerie just outside of nearby Dayton, Washington. Joan and her French husband Pierre-Louis raise sheep and goats to supply their small artisan cheese business. A visit to the fromagerie is an opportunity to connect with the food’s roots and to sample the cheeses with wines specially created for the purpose by a local producer. It is a very personal experience of the sort that wine people seek out. A perfect part of the cultural renaissance.
The Monteillet Fromagerie has become an unintended test for the local community — does it really want to embrace the renaissance opportunity? Apparently a special use permit is required for the farm’s cheese and wine sales and agri-tourist operations, which exist within a designated farming zone, and there is organized opposition to the Monteillet’s continuing operations. Hopefully community leaders will embrace the logic that has helped the wine industry to advance elsewhere in the valley and keep this part of the local culture alive and allow it to thrive.
Previous columns have argued that a critical mass of wine energy has indeed been reached in Walla Walla and it is interesting to watch ways the four groups I identified, Pioneers, Next Generation, Foreign Legion and Millennials, compete, cooperate and collectively build the region’s reputation.
Walla Walla is a farming community at heart, and probably pretty conservative. So newcomers and old timers don’t always get along. And I suspect they haven’t always got along perfectly here, either. But wine and the challenges of growing it, making it and selling it seems to have taught them the need to work together rather than squabble and the results are easy to appreciate.
I’ve been working on tracing out the multiple over-lapping human networks that I’ve observed, but I think I have only scratched the surface. The pattern of interconnections is complex and evolving. It would make a great project for a business student, human geographer or maybe an anthropologist to try to analyze the Walla Walla wine network.
Perhaps the biggest single indicator of the continuing dynamic interaction is the SeVeinVineyard project, which is currently being developed at the south end of the Walla Walla AVA. It shows how the different groups I have mentioned above continue to partner and invest even as they compete with each other in the marketplace.
Here is a list of partners in the project taken from the website. You can see the strong hand of the Pioneers here — they continue to shape the region’s growth — but if you look closely you’ll see that all the elements of the complex human network are represented.
When fully planted the SeVein project will increase the vineyard acreage in Walla Walla by an incredible 50 percent! Just imagine what Walla Walla will be able to do with so many more grapes! I foresee a shift to even more Walla Walla designated wines and perhaps less reliance on Columbia Valley fruit.
I suspect that the reputation of the region will grow with production, because this project seems to be about quality not just quantity. Significantly, the L’Ecole Ferguson Vineyard wine that won an International Trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards came from a vineyard in the SeVein project. There is more good news to come from this ambitious initiative.
Michael Porter’s theory posited that it takes the right combination of rivalry and cooperation to make a regional industry work — that, plus insanely demanding consumers, employers and so on so that competition is a race to the top, not the bottom. Ideally, I suppose, each new generation should raise the stakes and the expectations, and I think that’s part of the story here, although standards were very high right from the start. Walla Walla is still so young — the AVA is just 30 years old this year — but you can see why it has come so far in such a short time.
Come back next week for my final column in this series on Walla Walla. I will examine the three remaining “pillars” of the region’s success: history, culture and “the spark.”
Harvard business professor Michael Porter famously conceived of a “cluster” theory of “competitive advantage.” It isn’t one thing that makes a regional industry successful, he said, but rather it involves the dynamic interaction of a network of forces and factors that, when they come together, create an environment where all are successful.
Porter’s “diamond” analysis can be applied to many regions and industries, even wine. In fact. Nick Velluzzi of the Walla Walla Community College has applied it to his region’s wine sector (click here to read about his research). If you are interested in wine clusters or Walla Walla you should check out his work.
I am interested in how and why Walla Walla has risen to the top tier of American wine region, but this week I want to talk in terms of human networks not Porter’s approach, which focuses on networks of market institutions. It seems to me that one aspect of Walla Walla’s success has been the dynamic interaction of wine industry people, who I will divide into four loose groups: the Pioneers, the Next Generation, the Foreign Legion and the Millennials.
Let me start with a group that I will call the Pioneers, who got things started in the early days which, since this is the New World, was really just a few years ago. Although I don’t want to name too many names for fear of forgetting someone, this group would certainly include Marty Clubb and the Ferguson family (L’Ecole No 41), Rick Small and Darcy Fugman-Small (Woodward Canyon) and Gary Figgins (Leonetti Cellar) plus Norm McKibben (Pepper Bridge) who came on the wine scene a little bit later after a successful career in construction, and Gordy Venneri and Myles Anderson at Walla Walla Vintners.
Apparently nobody told the Pioneers that this was wheat country (maybe they just didn’t listen). Or maybe the noticed the hillside apple orchards and the small planting of grapes left by the early Italian immigrants (more about this in a future column) and connected the dots. In any case, they and others like them were the leaders in establishing the vineyards and cellars and the reputation of the wines as well. Walla Walla today would not exist without the contributions of the Pioneers.
The Next Generation
It seems to me that the next step was growth, with a new generation of wine people entering the scene, ēand what is significant is that the original insiders and the newcomers found ways to work together rather butt heads. I count my former student Chuck Reininger in this group, although his eponymous winery has deep local roots through his wife Tracy Tucker Reininger’s family.
One of the ways that the Pioneers and the Next Generation worked together was in developing the vineyards. Although there are estate wineries in Walla Walla, much of the local industry is organized along an American agriculture model, which means that the farming and the processing are often organized as separate business but obviously related functions, not always part of a vertically integrated unit.
Partnerships were formed to develop the key vineyard sites that supplied high quality grapes to the Pioneers and the Next Generation, too, which allowed the industry to grow much faster than if each little winery had its own small plot of land.
International influence within the human network has been valuable for Walla Walla. French and Italian settlers are part of the Walla Walla story (Lowden, where L’Ecole and Woodward Canyon make home today, was called “Frenchtown”) A number of talented Europeans were part of the next wave of wine and the synergy continued. Prime among the Foreign Legionnaires are Giles Nicault (Long Shadows), Marie-Eve Gilla (Forgeron), Jean-François Pellet (Pepper Bridge) and Christophe Baron (Cayuse).
Allen Shoup, who was instrumental in forming partnerships with the Antinori and Loosen wineries when he headed Chateau Ste Michelle, continued to attract international talent, investment and attention with his Long Shadows project. John Duval, Michel Rolland and many other international wine stars each make a wine with Washington grapes at Long Shadows.
Several waves of new wine people have arrived since the dawn of the 21st century — I’ll call these the Millennials. I count my former student Michael Corliss of Corliss and Tranche along with fellow University of Puget Sound alumnus Randall Hopkins (Corvus Cellars) in this large and expanding group.
The Corliss winery fills an impressively renovated former bakery building near the center of town. Hopkins’ Corvus Cellars is located out at the airport, in a winery incubator complex organized specifically to make new entry into the local industry possible. They are very different in scale and scope, but both intensely focused on the vineyard — and both produce superior wines (I am unbiased in this, I assure you!).
Reaching a Critical Mass
They are part of a movement , which includes wineries and vineyards large and small, that has created a critical mass of fine wineries that attract critical attention to the region, new talent to the local industry, wine tourists to fill the hotel beds and restaurant tables and provide the basis for the industry’s future growth. (A critical mass to support competitive associated and supporting sectors is part of the Porter model of success.)
I’ve only scratched the surface of this human network analysis, but I hope you get my point. The characteristics of the human networks that evolve are important in every wine region. They are particularly obvious in Walla Walla because of the region’s short history, small scale and the continuing synergies between and among the groups I have identified here.
How do these different groups and overlapping generations fit together to form a powerful human network? In a lot of little ways and one big way that is a key to Walla Walla’s future. Come back next week see what I’m talking about.
Walla Walla has come of age as a wine region – that was the theme of last week’s column, with the Decanter World Wine Awards International Trophy received by Walla Walla pioneer L’Ecole No 41 for its 2011 Ferguson Vineyard red blend as prime evidence. The international recognition that L’Ecole has received is terrific, but it more than one reason to believe the region has really come into its own.
Moving the Needle
It is tempting to point to a single person, place or event as the key to a wine region’s success, but the real story is always more complicated. Napa’s stunning emergence as a fine wine center? Yes, Robert Mondavi’s bold move to open his eponymous winery was important. And yes, the stunning triumph at the 1976 Judgement of Paris was important, too. But neither of these events or even both of them together would have been enough to move the needle so far so fast. I’d say that it takes a village to get the job done, but someone else has already used that line.
Each case is probably different, but for Walla Walla I’ve boiled it down to five important features, which I am calling the “Five Pillars” of Walla Walla’s success to endow them with a bit a of grandeur. They are, in the order I’ll be presenting them, the Land, the People, the Culture, the History and finally, what I am calling the Spark. This week I look at the Land.
Geography is the basis of most wine region definitions but sometimes border lines on a map conceal more than they reveal about the wine-growing conditions within. This is partly due to the fact that AVA borders end up being as much about politics and economics as soil types. I wrote about the controversies and compromises that went into the Stags Leap AVA in Wine Wars, for example, and I’ve read that the final compromise decision on the borders of the original Napa Valley AVA were based on the reach of the Napa phone system not any geological survey.
When you think of the Walla Walla Valley AVA you imagine a more or less uniform valley terroir, but when you actually examine it you find really quite stunning complexity. That’s the first pillar – the Land. Walla Walla is a prime wine region because it doesn’t just talk about terroir, it has terroirs.
Learning the Lie of the Land
You won’t find many vines planted on the valley floor in Walla Walla simply because the threat of winter freeze is too high (with one exception – see below). Slope, aspect and elevation are very important in order to get air drainage that protects the vines to a certain extent. Even with care in site selection some growers have adopted the practice of the buried cane or even burying vines themselves for the winter as insurance policies against a hard freeze.
We were fortunate to attend a lecture on the Walla Walla terroir given by geologist (and Whitman College professor) Kevin Pogue and to have noted viticulturalist Alan Busacca guide us through three vineyards that illustrated three distinctly different terroir types. We had the pleasure of tasting wines from each area in the vineyards that produced them, which was a special treat.
We started at Les Collines vineyard, an example of a loess-covered terrace site according to my notes. The wind-blown silt goes down dozens of feet and the vine roots drill down to the complex coarse grained Missoula flood deposits that lie below. Les Collines supplies grapes to many of Walla Walla’s best winemakers. Although the growing conditions look much the same throughout the large vineyard as you stare down the slope (see photo) we saw that there altitude and other factors created a surprising diversity of micro-terroirs, which are taken into account in selecting grape varieties for each block.
The dry farmed Yellow Bird vineyard in Mill Creek Valley is an example of a second terroir type — loess-draped foothills with fine-textured clay-rich soils and complex minerality derived from Missoula flood deposits. We also visited one of the vineyards that Chris Figgins has developed in this area and the estate vineyard of Walla Walla Vintners, too. The wines we tasted from this valley were savory and distinctive — different from what we tasted at Les Collines.
We visited “The Rocks” vineyard area in Milton-Freewater, Oregon to see the alluvial fan terroir and it sure was rocky! The rocks, built up over centuries are more than 100 feet deep. (One winery that draws fruit from this area calls itself Balboa. Rocky Balboa – get it?). Walla Walla actually has two alluvial fan areas, this one on the Oregon side of the border that is planted with grapes and tree fruit and the other on the Washington side that, alas, is now pretty much completely covered by the city of Walla Walla itself. Damn! Hate to waste good vineyard potential that way!
The alluvial fan area is an exception to the rule that grape vines are not planted on the valley floor because of the winter freeze threat. Growers are willing to tolerate the freeze risk because of the distinctiveness of the fruit. Everyone expects the TTB to soon act on a proposal for Walla Walla’s first sub-AVA – The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, which will officially recognize this unusual land.
There’s a final terroir type that we weren’t able to explore on this trip – the canyons and steep slopes that radiate from the valley. Gotta go there next time because everyone was talking about the potential for cool climate wine grapes such as Riesling and Pinot Noir.
Telling Terroir’s Story
If it is true that wine is made in the vineyard, then terroir – the Land in my list of pillars – is a critical factor and Walla Walla has distinctive terroirs for wine enthusiasts to explore and enjoy. Of course not everyone agrees that wine is made in the vineyard and one mischievous winemaker (I won’t reveal who) was passing around a wine for us to taste. Guess what it is and where it comes from, he said. I sniffed and swirled and tasted and I knew just what it was because I had tasted it before recently. That’s Grenache from the Rocks, I said with some confidence. That’s what it is supposed to taste like, he laughed, but it is actually Merlot from a completely different vineyard site. He has deliberately manipulated the wine in the cellar to produce an unlikely Cayuse impostor.
Walla Walla is noteworthy for the variety that the land presents and just to make the point Alan and Kevin took us to one road cut area where we could clearly see the differences. Walking just 30 feet we moved from the rocky alluvial fan to a silty loess-covered terrace where everything about the grapes and vines was much difference. Quite an experience.
Okay, Walla Walla has terroir, I’ve seen it myself, but I guess terroir by itself isn’t everything , but it is not nothing, either, no matter what some might say. But wait — there’s more. Come back for more about the pillars of Walla Walla wine success.
Photos by contributing editor Sue Veseth. Special thanks to Kevin Pogue and Alan Busacca for sharing their expertise with us. Thanks as well to the McKibbens and their team at Les Collines, Chris Figgins, Myles Anderson, Gordy Venneri, the folks from Watermill and Cayuse, and everyone else we met on this research trip.
Sue and I recently returned from 10 days in the Walla Walla AVA — half spent attending events sponsored by the Walla Walla Wine Alliance celebrating the AVA’s 30th birthday through a celebration of its wines and half with the American Association of Wine Economists who met at Whitman College.
Coming of Age in Washington
As we drove back over the Cascades towards home base in Tacoma, we talked about key takeaway messages and at the top of both of our lists was the region’s coming of age. We’ve visited Walla Walla many times over the years and watched it grow and change, but without ever having a sense that it had achieved its potential.
Maybe it is because we had more time on this visit or maybe it is because we had so much access and guidance (from the Wine Alliance as well as from our growing list of winemaker friends there), but somehow this time it all came together and I will use the next few columns to tell you how and why we came to this conclusion and what it might mean.
A number of factors contributed to our view but as fortune would have it a single event sort of summed up the moment. We were up on a hilltop on the Oregon side of the AVA for a festive dinner at the Glass House at the Caderetta vineyard and we tasted a number of Bordeaux blend wines with the meal. (Scroll down to view the wines and menu for that dinner.) Marty Clubb of the Walla Walla pioneer winery L’Ecole No. 41 was there and we tasted his 2011 Ferguson Vineyard blend. I think we could actually see the recently developed Ferguson Vineyard over the hill from our vantage point.
The wine was great, with a real sense of place (more to come about this in future posts) and Marty told us that he was about to fly off to London because of this wine. The L’Ecole team was so happy with the Ferguson that they had entered it in the Decanter World Wine Awards and he had been summoned to London for the awards dinner.
The invitation meant that the wine had won one of the bigger prizes — not just a bronze, silver or gold. Maybe a regional trophy (best U.S. Bordeaux variety wine?) or maybe even an International Trophy (best of all the wine in this category from all over the world!). No way to tell which it was, but he was willing to fly to London to find out. How exciting!
A couple of days later I was busy hitting the F5 reload key on my laptop, impatient to see the Decanter results appear on my screen. And finally at 1:01 pm there they were. L’Ecole won the International Trophy for Best Bordeaux Variety Red Wine over £15 -- the top award in what must be one of the most competitive wine categories.
Wow — I couldn’t stop smiling when I learned that. Happy for Marty and his team. And happy for Walla Walla and Washington — great recognition for their wines. And a sign of Walla Walla’s coming of age, don’t you think?
Art versus Science?
I don’t know if I was lucky or not, but I got the news when I was surrounded by my academic wine economist colleagues, who are intensely skeptical of wine competitions and rankings. I think it is possible they have collectively devoted far too much of their very considerable intellectual firepower to proving what I think is obvious — that judging wines, even using expert tasters and careful protocols, is more subjective art than objective science.
Winning a Decanter award or any other obviously doesn’t prove that one particular wine is objectively “better” (whatever that means) than any other. But, I would argue, it is hard to deny that the excellence of the L’Ecole Ferguson stood out to the initial American tasting panel, which is how it entered in the International Trophy competition. And it obviously stood out there, too, when tasted with similar wines from other parts of the world. Not rocket science, I agree, but still worth celebrating.
Frenchtown Schoolhouse Roots
Best in the world? That’s a matter of opinion. But a sign that Walla Walla has come of age? Absolutely yes! And while LEcole is not the only Walla Walla winery set to take a place on the national and global stage, it is a very good example for us to study. The Ferguson vineyard itself, for example, shows L’Ecole’s determination to expand production without diluting quality and, at over 40,000 cases, L’Ecole is now large for a Washington producer (although everyone is small compared with Chateau Ste Michelle and its sister wineries, which together produce well more than half of all the wine in the state).
L’Ecole’s recently re-designed label also suggests a thoughtful approach to moving into the national spotlight. The old label was a playful rendering of the historic schoolhouse that serves as the winery tasting room today in the tiny town of Lowden, which was known in days past as Frenchtown because of the French settlers there. The new label keeps the Frenchtown schoolhouse image, but updates it and presents the wine in an elegant way that communicates quality to a broader audience while respecting the heritage of the winery and the region.
Is the L’Ecole Ferguson’s award the whole “coming of age” story? Far from it — I’m just getting started. Stay tuned.
Before I go: Here’s a brief video that Marty Clubb made before his London flight. I include it here because it anticipates my next column, but also because it gives you a sense of our experience talking with Marty on that high ridge overlooking the Ferguson vineyard last month. Enjoy!
Thanks to everyone we met in Walla Walla for their help and hospitality. Special thanks guide extraordinare Sharon Ferraro and to Duane Wollmuth and Heather Bradshaw of the Walla Walla Wine Alliance. Here’s the menu from the dinner at the Cadaretta glass house. Enjoy!
The preliminary agenda for Wine Vision 2014 has been announced and I am excited to be included in the list of presenters. The event will be in London from 17-19 November. Click here for more information and to receive updates about the event. You can view videos of Wine Vision 2013 here.
Wine Vision is meant to be an opportunity for members of the global wine business community to come together to think about the challenges and opportunities that the wine business faces today and consider how best to prepare for the changing future industry environment.
We speakers have been challenged to throw out ideas that will challenge the conventional wisdom, sharpen thinking and stimulate discussion. I have been asked to help set the scene by analyzing the state of the global industry today and, since the next speaker, Jean-Guillaume Prats, President and CEO, Moët Hennessy Estates & Wines, will be talking about the future of wine I decided to look at the present from a slightly different angle that I hope will generate some interesting insights. Here’s the description of my talk — what do you think? (You can read more about my presentation here.)
An unlikely future? Today’s wine world – and the forces that shaped it
Fifty years ago it would have been hard to predict the world of wine we live in today. In this presentation one of the world’s most provocative commentators will consider both its most surprising characteristics and the historical forces that have shaped it. Mike will challenge conventional thinking and suggest new ways to predict the future based on a fresh interpretation of the past. He’ll shake up the way we see the wine world – both as it is today and might be tomorrow – with topics that include:
The program is still coming together — I’ll provide occasional updates as news is released. In the meantime, here is the current speaker/panelist list and here is a link to the current agenda. Hope to see you in London!
Jean-Guillaume Prats, President and CEO, Moët Hennessy Estates & Wines
Dan Jago, UK and Group Wine Director, Tesco Stores PLC
Mike Ratcliffe, Managing Director, Warwick Wine Estate and co-founder and Managing Partner of Vilafonté
Kevin Shaw, Founder and CEO, Stranger & Stranger
Tyler Balliet, President and Founder, The Second Glass and Wine Riot
Mike Veseth, The Wine Economist
Prof Charles Spence, Head of Crossmodal Lab, Oxford University
Prof Barry Smith, Director, Institute of Philosophy, University of London’s School of Advanced Study
Dominique Persoone, The ‘Shock-o-latier’, Founder, The Chocolate Line
David Schuemann, Owner and Creative Director, CF Napa Brand Design
Robin Copestick, Managing Director, I heart wine – Copestick Murray
Jonny Forsyth, Global Drinks Analyst, Mintel
Barry Clark, The Future Foundation
Mike Greene, founder of Him!, business mentor and author of ‘Into the Eye of the Storm’