Guam, US Naval Base 08:00 hours
100 feet below the waters surface and near the abyss of the
Marianas Trench, the deepest area in the world, Eric Titus meticulously
pulls core samples from the ocean floor. In 5 minutes he must begin his ascent to the surface to avoid the dangers of decompression illness.
The porous limestone that comprises this island, in the heart of the
Micronesian South Pacific ocean, is leaking possible toxins. The US
Navy has once again called upon his expertise in an effort to determine
the impact that a seaside landfill has had on the local marine life.
This is Erics day job.
His other job is vineyard manager/marketing director, for family-owned
winery, Titus. He works hand-in-hand with his brother Philip who is
chief winemaker for Chappellet by day and Titus winemaker by night.
Together they are carving a niche as up and coming California wine
It all started with their father, Dr. Lee Titus, who moved out to
California from the Midwest during the Depression. After World War
II, Lee attended medical school, became a successful radiologist,
and met his wife, Ruth.
In the late 60s, four brawny baby boys later, the Titus family
bought nearly 50 acres in Napa Valley, just north of St. Helena. At
the time, the land was producing a plethora of crops - walnuts, prunes,
hay, and some all but forgotten grape varietals, such as Mondeuce,
Burger, and Golden Chasselas. My Dad wanted to grow all five
Bordeaux varietals on the land," says Eric, we asked him
why and he said because Bordeaux does it. They are the best wine region
in the world and we should do it too. And that set Titus on
a path to creating beautifully blended Bordeaux wines as well as a
Although Eric worked in the vineyards while growing up, he was drawn
to the world of marine science and earned a doctorate in biology.
In his ten years as a marine biology environmental consultant, Eric
has worked on projects in Pearl Harbor, Midway and the atoll of Wake
Island. An upcoming trip to Guam will be his third. When Lee decided
80 was just too old to be driving around in tractors and tending the
vines every day, Eric jumped in to help his father. Now and
for the last 10 years, Philip makes the wine and Eric grows the vines.
The brothers work closely with one another, in a symbiotic relationship
that demonstrates how interwoven and vitally important the two areas
of winemaking are to each other.
The Titus vineyards are all on the Napa Valley floor, but in contrast
to the more common deep, rich soil, theirs is sandy and well-drained.
This stresses the vines to create intense and complex fruit. I
let the land do its thing, says Eric. This is where his science
background comes in handy. Many growers hire consultants who
analyze soil composition and suggest methods of growing based on general
theories. Because of my own experience, I know this land and know
what it is destined to produce. I take the path of least resistance."
This is key. Figure out what the land wants to produce, and let it.
This kind of terrior farming is one of the reasons why Eric and Philip
wont be making a white wine anytime soon. We dont
really have the climate for it up here. says Eric. He also admitted
as a side line that he and his brother cannot agree on which white
and, on top of that, dont have a great passion for any white.
However, they are tossing around the idea of a small dessert muscat
As we concluded our visit with Eric, we couldnt help but notice
the stacks of National Geographic magazines piled throughout the Titus
country cottage. Eric is a true adventurer and lover of nature
both above and below the water. In that way, he sees himself not in
the role of the manager of the vineyard, but in the far
more humble role as its caretaker.