Jonathan Swinchatt has studied and communicated about Earth and Earth processes most of his life. Trained as a geologist at Yale and Harvard, he has experience in the oil business, as a Professor of Geology and of Environmental Education, as a builder of energy efficient homes and additions, and as a producer of award-winning video programs about Earth, energy, and environment. His interest in wine began during a year in Australia on a National Science Foundation post-doctoral fellowship during which he drank a copious quantity of terrific wine at little cost, including Penfold's Grange at 90 cents a bottle (now over $200). In the late 1960s, he taught one of the first courses on wine tasting at an American University (Colgate). After years of salutary experiential education by Connecticut's premier wine merchant (Bob Feinn, Mount Carmel Wine and Spirits) he became a periodic participant in a Cook's Illustrated wine tasting panel chaired by food writer Mark Bittman, now of the New York Times.
In 1990, Swinchatt produced a video on geology and wine in the Napa Valley, "EarthNectar." Ten years later, this led to two major projects, an extensive report (The Foundations of Wine in the Napa Valley) for the Napa Valley Vintner's Association, and a book published in 2004, The Winemaker's Dance: Exploring Terroir in the Napa Valley (with his friend and colleague David Howell). In turn, these led to an on-going series of detailed geologic studies of vineyards, mainly in the Napa Valley but now expanding to Europe. In 2005-2006, Swinchatt produced a series of articles on American terroirs for The World of Fine Wine, on the Napa Valley, the Walla Walla Valley, the Willamette Valley, and Santa Barbara County.
These experiences have led to a unique perspective on the relationship between people, place, and wine. Grounded in the science of the Earth, developed through extensive, substantive conversations with winegrowers and winemakers, and enhanced by skills developed as an educator and writer, this perspective provides winegrowers and winemakers with a dynamic story of the land that underlies their vineyards. The visual and conceptual framework provided by Swinchatt's reports, based in examination of vineyard substrate revealed in backhoe pits, topographic analysis, intuition, and experience, gives a fresh and lively context for the vast array of information that impinges on winegrowers and winemakers, from the feel of a leaf or the taste of a grape, to chemical analyses and spectral mapping. They also provide a new perspective for marketing, providing a unique view of place, the component of terroir most likely to touch the public imagination.