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 August 2005 People

Alberta to Adelaide

by Rich Wilhelm

John Bringas examines his 2005 pinot noir grapes at the Kangaroo Island vineyard.

Tying up the threads of John Bringas’ multifaceted life is no easy task, though Bringas seems to accomplish it quite artfully.

John Bringas, an ASTM member for 23 years, is also:

• A winemaker, whose wines are sold in his native Canada;
• A marathon runner, who will participate in the 2005 World Master Games;
• A Canadian who now spends three to four months each year in Australia;
• An engineer who has taught at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and at the University of Alberta;
• Founder of the CASTI Group of Companies (Codes and Standards Training Inc. (CASTI), CASTI Publishing Inc. and CASTI Digitizing and Multimedia Inc.), an engineering information company that provides codes and standards training, publishes engineering books (including those Bringas writes) and provides electronic publishing assistance to other technical publishers; and
• The author of ASTM DS 67B, Handbook of Comparative World Steel Standards and creator of Passport to Steel, a comprehensive online resource for steel data.

We’re going to talk mostly about the wine.

Bringas loves to tell the story of the first time he watched his grandfather, Luigi “Gigi” Zorzit, make wine.

“I was around four years old,” Bringas says. “My grandfather used to make wine in a dirt-floor shed behind his house. The very first time I was tall enough to open the shed door and walk in, he was there, working with his wine. He said to me in Italian, ‘John, you stay right there. You can sit on the step but don’t go any further. You can watch, but don’t say anything.’ I just sat down and watched him. To this day, I can remember that moment. I was fascinated by all the things I was watching him do.”

Although his grandfather’s winemaking was a hobby and the wine was strictly for family consumption, he made it with Californian zinfandel grapes. “My grandfather had his secrets about winemaking and his passion for it was certainly passed on to me,” says Bringas. While Bringas dabbled in winemaking through the years, it was an eventful trip to Australia that would take his hobby to a whole new level.

Traveling to Australia for the first time in 1996 on CASTI business, Bringas immediately fell in love with the country. “As the plane took off to go back to Canada, I looked out the window and saw the apartment on the beach where I had stayed,” says Bringas. “Right then and there, I felt sad, like I was leaving home, which had never happened before, other than when I left Canada.” He decided at that moment that he’d be returning to Australia annually.

During that first visit to Australia, and on subsequent visits, Bringas has met people involved in the Australian wine industry. During his trip four years ago, Bringas was given a large stash of grapes from a winemaking friend whom he had assisted, and made wine with the grapes at the friend’s winery. A year later, while sampling the wine from the barrel, Bringas was amazed at how good it was.

“It was the expertise of my friend who showed me how to make wine with that kind of grape that made the wine so good,” says Bringas. He decided to bottle the wine and ship it home for sale in Alberta. Each year since, Bringas has returned to Australia just after Christmas, helped his friend, and then made his own wine, which he calls Gigi, as a tribute to his grandfather. Bringas says he knows it’s time to return to Canada when the wine is in the barrel for the year.

Bringas became an ASTM International member in 1982. Initially a member of Committee B02 on Nonferrous Metals and Alloys, he became particularly involved in Subcommittee B02.91 on Terminology. He now works on several B02 and A01 subcommittees, though he is still very involved in B02.91and A01.92, terminology subcommittees covering ferrous and nonferrous metals.

The passion that Bringas has for winemaking spills over into his ASTM activities. “I truly enjoy all my committee work. Getting involved and being able to talk about material standards with like-minded people is exceptional. I’ve made a lot of friends through my ASTM committee work and I can see myself being a member for as long as I can drink wine.” //

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