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On the off chance that Weil, Gotshal & Manges patent lawyer Matthew Powers develops a brilliant new technology to revolutionize California wine-making, you have his word that he’ll license it freely. “It’s here for enjoyment, not commercial gain,” Powers chuckles. The New York firm’s Menlo Park, Calif., managing partner and patent litigator recently jumped into the wine-making business, planting 2-1/2 acres on his father-in-law’s land near Carmel, Calif. He’s hoping — after the wine has aged for four years — to produce 15 cases, or approximately 180 bottles, from his first crop of sun-sweetened Syrah grapes. Of course, he’s right at the beginning of the learning curve, where he’s swallowing such bitter lessons as the fact that without netting, birds can and will pilfer a quarter of his grapes. For Powers, who managed to take a wine appreciation course and also teach ballroom dancing all while slogging his way through his first year at Harvard Law School, making the time to set that curve vertical probably won’t be a problem. “Wine has always been a hobby from the other end — the collecting and consuming end — and I wanted to see if I could do something from the other end, to see if I could make something as good as I could critique it,” he explains. “But at this early stage we’re just sort of going by the philosophy of ‘we’ll have made it, so hopefully it will be good.’ “ Last month, Powers and his 11-year-old daughter Brett picked and processed the family’s first batch of grapes. The two grabbed five-gallon buckets with one hand and stem clippers with the other, and picked 400 pounds of grapes from about one acre of vineyard. Powers went on to test sugar content on the Brix scale, mash grapes, and add yeast with a panoply of “high-tech gizmos” and “big wooden things” — objects whose proper names he’ll undoubtedly acquire as he makes his way up the learning curve. Syrah — also known as Shiraz, the name being used by the Powers family — is best known for such French Rhone Valley reds as Cote-Rotie and Hermitage. Powers says the grape originated in Persia. The Carmel Valley land where their grapes are grown belongs to Powers’ wife’s family, who came from Teheran, Iran. Powers expects that next season they’ll have as much as four times the quantity of wine-worthy grapes as this season. Powers says he expects Brett — who he describes as “artistically inclined” — to design the bottle labels. And while he doesn’t expect her to consume much of the first batch, he says her interest right now comes chiefly from seeing concepts that she learns in school science lessons resonate with what she sees taking form at the vineyard. As the managing partner of the Menlo Park office, Powers acknowledges he has scant free time for his hobby. Still, he says he’s happy to devote much of his free time to the process of learning, experimenting and producing, and says he’s looking forward to a long relationship with the Carmel vineyards. “I don’t know many other lawyers who do it, probably because they don’t have enough time,” he says. “I’m lucky that my father-in-law is semi-retired and able to do a lot of the day-to-day stuff that I’m not able to do.”

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