Poetry in a bottle, and all the hard work that goes into it

Opening a bottle, pouring yourself a glass, sensing the complex aromas and flavors, the velvety texture: that’s the pleasure of wine.

But to get there, it’s good to remember just how much hard work has been put in by everyone that’s hard at work in the vineyards and cellars. As Wayne Young writes on the Bastianich Winery blog:

There’s  romantic misconception about the harvest… Grape Picking. Most people imagine lovely ladies in sun-dresses happily carrying their wicker baskets of beautiful fruit through the vineyards…

I would rather spend 8 hours in the cellar working with tanks and pumps and hoses, than 4 hours picking grapes. It’s messy, buggy, sticky, hot, nasty work.

Wayne has been doing a great job giving a sense of what harvest is all about, by describing everything from the equipment and how it’s used to fermentation, grape varieties, the method of drying grapes by appassimento, wasp attacks and the quick onset of a storm, just as fresh grapes are waiting to be brought into the winery. In other words, (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday #48: Back to Your Roots

Great theme from Lenn Thompson, founder of the Wine Blogging Wednesday, to celebrate four years of this collective tasting thing (which begat a French heir called les Vendredis du vin, among other good things). He calls upon us to (more…)

Make your own wine (it’s not what you think)

Just about anyone who loves wine with any degree of seriousness starts thinking, at one point or another, that it would be great to make their own wine. There are those who will pick up demijohns and buckets of must and all that and produce their own Château Moi, with highly varying degrees of success. My father-in-law makes a very decent white wine. I’m not quite as enthralled by his red.

Anyway, there are other options out there. You could, for instance, buy your own vineyard, with a house and all the equipment you need. If you have half a million dollar or more, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. But then, of course, don’t forget that you’ll have to do all the vineyard work – and there is a lot of that. Oh. And sell the wine, too…

On the other hand, you could decide to go the luxurious and exclusive way, with a lot of pampering, instead of vine pruning and compost shoveling, and sign up for Cliff Lede Vineyards‘ BYOB program. It’s a three-day, all expenses paid, limousine-driven (more…)

Pulling back just a touch – take two

The LA Times story about Adam Tolmach, from Ojai Vineyards, saying that he would reduce the alcohol content in his wines to move away from the world of Parkerized wines, which I had mentioned in my previous post, has been gathering a fair bit of steam. The original story was picked up by many on the blogosphere and in the media, including Decanter and The Telegraph in the United Kingdom, often with a sort of glee from people who obviously think that the higher-alcohol trend is just plain wrong.

Yet the shocker comes from Eric Asimov, of the New York Times, who found the characterization of Ojai vineyards’ wines as “over the top” rather strange, since he (and others, like Allen Meadows of Burghound, who is a harsh critic of high-alcohol wines) tends to find Tolmach’s wines rather balanced and elegant. Asimov called Tolmach, who told him he was misquoted, and that his reference to his own, over the top wines pointed to a particular series of pinots he produced from 1992 to 2001.

Still, even though he disagrees with the particulars of the article (more…)

Pulling back just a touch

Are California wines over the top?. That’s the title of an interesting article published earlier this week in the Los Angeles Times, which I picked up on through the web site of A Donkey and Goat Winery. (Reading it requires a free registration)

The answer to the question? Yes, quite obviously. And it’s not me saying that. In the article, the main character is one Adam Tolmach, of Ojai Vineyard, on the Central Coast:

After 25 years, Santa Barbara’s original cult winemaker has had a crisis of conscience. “We got the scores we wanted, but we went away from what I personally like,” Tolmach says. “We lost our rudder when we went for ever bolder, riper flavors.” Specifically, he says, the alcohol levels of his wines, at 15% and higher, are too high.

(…) As he steps out into the sun, signaling to his crew to follow him up the stone steps to his house, where he’ll make them a lunch of grilled cheese and onion sandwiches, he says, “We have to do the right thing. I’d stopped drinking my own wines.”

That’s exactly the point, isn’t it? Tolmach is aiming to pull back (more…)