Bent and Broken Connections to the Inspired Real

1990 was an interesting year for things that aren't real. Milli Vanilli won a Grammy award, which was later rescinded when it was revealed that Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus hadn't actually performed the music for which they were recognized.

1990 was also the year that Charles Shaw lost his eponymously named Napa winery, the result of a challenging business situation and a divorce.

Milli Vanilli is gone, but Charles Shaw lives on, as a wine brand if not a winery in Napa. Bronco wine company purchased the Charles Shaw name and it became the "Two Buck Chuck" of Trader Joe's fame. Nothing to do with the real Charles Shaw. 

I want to be clear from the start that I'm not addressing the hedonistic qualities of these products. I'm only observing that they carry trappings that have nothing to do with their current reality. But they do (or did) trade on the quality heritage established by the "real."

Today's Charles Shaw wines have nothing to do with the real person, Charles Shaw. 

Today's Robert Mondavi wines are not made or marketed, operated or owned  by any member of the Mondavi family. The Robert Mondavi winery is owned and operated by Constellation Brands, the largest wine producer in the world. 

Ben & Jerry's ice cream is owned by Unilever, one of the world's oldest multi-national firms, which owns more than 400 brands sold in some 190 countries.

A couple of brands I saw born (because I was there and knew the founder-parents) …

Mendocino Brewing Company founded by a group of friends opening a brewpub in Hopland, California, is now owned by the UB Group, the world's third-largest spirits company (United Brewers was a Scottish company, but it's now an India-based multi-national). 

Paul Dolan Vineyards trades on the "sustainable" reputation of Paul Dolan, although he was dismissed from his position as president of Mendocino Wine Company, which continues to make and market wines under his name.

None of this is wrong or illegal (well, maybe Milli Vanilli). And the products (and music) may still be delicious. And I'm sure that (in some cases) the "spirit" of the founders is still called upon to bless the current products. 

But I believe that something important is lost when the connection to reality is bent or broken. Of course, there are business realities that justify these occurrences. I just don't like those business realities, and I'm uncomfortable with the slightly fake feeling these products now inspire in me. I don't like that the root passion and drive that birthed these brands is now being used as high-tone window-dressing by big business. 

Will I buy them and enjoy them? Maybe. Especially if they are a really good deal and deliver hedonistic satisfaction. But I can't crave them, or care about them, as deeply as I can something still intimately connected to the real. 

DAH is David Anthony Hance. dah@dahance.com