I am here, in Sonoma County, doing the harvest dance. No, literally, I am frolicking through vineyards and sampling various varietals of grapes. I dine in only farm to table restaurants, and watch sunsets daily.
Now, that is probably what most of my East coast friends think I am doing. But, its not. Not at all.
It is a lot more gritty, painstaking, and above all wet version of what I just described. Yes, since I am also a novice cleaner-uper of winery machinery, I tend to drench myself while cleaning equipment. Everyone finds it pretty laughable. I don’t blame them. Also, might I mention that Dickies pants scrubs are an excellent and stylish accessory to have working in a winery. Those things dry at the speed of light!!! Cuffed up just above my ever stylish Blundstones, I am on the trail to win the most dapper winery intern award…
I am nonetheless blissed the hell out over here! And, I have never felt more like an intern in my entire life. As one would guess, winemaking is not something you learn in a day. It is a complex process, even if you are only producing less than 50 cases of a single wine. Yeah yeah wine is basically one equation: squished grapes + yeast = alcohol. BUT, within that equation are tons of variables and quirks you would not even think of. And, this equation all begins in the vineyard.
So, GRAPE BABIES PART 1 COMMENCES (*monty python like intro voice*)
I participated in my first grape picking last week. It was super cool. The vineyard is nestled up in the hills surrounding Santa Rosa. Unfortunately, these hills are also where the 2017 fires spread, devastating lives with homes and belongings burnt to the ground. As you climb higher, you see the extent of No 2. pencil stick trees and yellow grass. Despite it all, the hills are still incredibly stunning and resilient. The natural foliage appeared to be rapidly healing itself. Bushes were filling in their rich green leaves, and old olive trees stood sturdy.
The 1 acre vineyard plot was not mono-varietal. It was plentiful of Graciano, Syrah, Tempranillo, and Cabernet Sauvignon. We came for the tempranillo!
We were picking it early for a groovy little sparkling project. Tempranillo is naturally a low acid grape. Picked a bit early allows for there to be more acid concentration in the grape. As we tasted through the other developing grape varieties, you can grasp the different profiles and maturity levels with your tastebuds. To put it in perspective, the dazzling innate acidity of graciano tasted like a sour patch kids in comparison to tempranillo. The tempranillo was not by any means flat! It was balanced with a beautiful tight nit fruit set. Also, the graciano had yet to reach is readiness for pickin’! (Its going to be a still red, so it needs a lot more sugaaa!)
And, when it comes to grape visiting, picking, sniffing etc…, you must bring a salty snack along. So, now I can explain why I am now a chiccharones addict. Yes, bags of crunchy finger licking fried pork skins. What else? The best thing to cut all that sugar and acid your mouth was bathed in from grape tasting is fat and salt. It is one of the basics in wine pairings! You could do potato chips if you are a vegan, I guess.
We only picked around a ton, which sufficiently fills two bins of grapes.
I am super excited to watch this tempranillo evolve! The style will showcase a different side of the varietal. Tempranillo is often made found as an oaked still red wine, specifically from the Rioja region of Spain. I like them, but with the recent preference for aging in American oak, the affordable Riojas often lack complexity to me. If I wanted to taste a new oak barrel all day on my palette, I would just go and lick one directly. This sparkling tempranillo will not see any oak, only stainless steel. It will be done in the champagne method, with ample bottle aging. Not as long as a top tier champagne, but long enough to emphasize a California grown tempranillo’s brilliance!
I was also blessed with an afternoon ‘sampling’ tour of all the vineyards we source from. Nibbling on grapes, roasting in the California sun, the usual. Not complaining about being bronze all the time at all… Many wines are produced with fruit sourced off site. It is usually expensive to have a whole ass winery and vineyards on the same land. Or it is just a generational blessing, where a lovely little grape institution was maintained and passed down over many many years. Either way, a wine is not any more or less spectacular if the vineyards are arms length away from your wine vats, as long as the grapes get the right TLC.
Major side note, this is me overly enthusiastic about pergola trained Cabernet Sauvignon. I do not need to hunch, bend, or break my neck to pick these!!
This grape vine below was most likely mutated or infected with a virus. So, its leaves are sadly a gorgeous autumn red and cream. It is some pretty old rootstock, making it a stubborn little fighter. It still produced fruit!
And, this is the ideal vineyard photo, of Cabernet specifically, where I dance under the moonlight on the daily (I wish.)
To finish, me WITH MY WEE TEMPRANILLO GRAPE BABIES!
HAPPINESS LEVEL COMPLETE.