It seems everyone these days is falling all over themselves to declare how “green” they are. “I am dynamically post-sustainable and bio-organic.” “My labels are made from hemp seed.” “Drink my wine and become an eco-warrior.” Kum-ba-ya and pass the chardonnay.
I once mused what it would be like to make wine in a zero gravity environment. I think of the film clips of the astronauts aboard the Mir space station, how they munch on Cheetos floating by their faces, snatching them one by one out of space as the crunchy snacks glide past their mouths.
As you may have learned in previous newsletters, our search for vineyard land came to a fortuitous conclusion when we discovered an old farmstead for sale out here on the northern tip of the Sonoma Coast. How did it come to be that there were a few old farmsteads sprinkled on hilltops amongst a sea of conifers out here on the edge of the Pacific?
I am aging. This is evident both in my thinning hair and sagging body. Thankfully, my eyesight has worsened as the years have accumulated. And for all this humiliation, am I at least improving with age? Am I like a fine wine that needs a few years to mellow some particularly strong characteristics after which I will emerge balanced, complex, ineffable?
As I write this column in late February, Mother Nature has blessed us with a respite from the usual stormy, rainy, winter weather. The molate fescue and malva are thriving under the winter rays, while the mustard and wild radish are just starting to grow. We are steadily pruning the vines while the weather holds.
It was spring break of my last year in college (let’s just say sometime in the beginning of the previous decade). While most pleasure-seeking youngsters of my day were angling at ways to get themselves down to Cancun or Ft. Lauderdale for some serious MTV-style merrymaking, me and some fellow winemaking students at University were embarking on a journey of enological proportions.
Gazing at my Carte Géologique de l’Hermitage, with its rainbow of hues signifying 12 soil types organized into three main epochal groups, I marvel at the adaptability of Syrah, its chameleon-like ability to express a delicious range of flavors. Hermitage is unusual due to the variety of her soils, an accident of geology and history.
Why do winegrowers and winemakers-especially Pinot growers-harp on about how cold their vineyard is compared to others? Is this a male ego thing? “Yeah, well I picked 2 weeks later than you, bucko, so I am cooler than you,”
Terroir is generally defined as the sum total of all the natural features of a site – topography, geology, soil depth and type, general climate, and microclimate – that impart a distinctiveness to the wine by influencing the grapevine’s growth and physiological capability to ripen grapes.
It is difficult to write about winemaking without writing about growing grapes. For us, winemaking is winegrowing, we approach it as one integral process rather than simply two separate, sequential processes.
When Nick and I were looking for land we tasted wines from many winegrowing regions with the hope of uncovering what accounted for the characteristics in Pinot noir and Chardonnay we admired.