Finally, a quiet afternoon emerges (Thanks to a cancelled Viticulture class) to continue the 2010 Garagiste Saga. Picking up where we left off was my flurry of a weekend, getting my beloved Grenache Blanc up from Santa Ynez, neutral white barrels strapped in tow. (As told in Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 5 – Grenache Blanc Road Trip, and a new Test of Endurance.)
The weekend went mostly as planned, albeit with less sleep planned Friday and Saturday night. The Bonny Doon Cigare Volante Retrospective dinner was incredible, and a thrill. Beside’s getting some chat time with icon Randall Grahm, I managed to sneak in some tastings, served personally by GM, Heather who was a friendly wealth of knowledge. The Bonny Doon team is genuinely enthusiastic about what they do – and who could blame them.The dinner meant to end at 9ish went nearly til Midnight.
Saturday cellar work and tasting with Anthony Yount of Denner, and his own label Kinero, as well as Amy of Ranchero Cellars, (former winemaker at Edward Sellers) who makes an amazing Carignan, was a blast, and I stayed up too late having dinner with friends, cutting short the sleep for Sunday’s long day….but sleep is replaceable; time shared with special people isn’t.
Sunday went mostly to plan, with a minor trailer mishap. It was a 16 hour day; exhausting, but incredibly gratifying.
The Next Marathon Begins
The following week brought a new set of challenges. I still had Syrah, Grenache, Marsanne, and Roussanne to pick at Saralee’s Vineyard. Two were about ready, two needed a tad more hang time. Murphy’s Law rose its head; Mother Nature flexed her biceps, we had rain, coming, lots of it. Then that thing called work (my real job) reared it’s head with an emergency trip 3 timezones away AND With more behind it. ALL of the fruit would have to come in and I was gone part of the week. After suppressing some panic, I mapped out the plan.
It worked out, despite almost no margin for error. Up early Monday morning (right after the Grenache Blanc journey), blaze to SFO, travel East, full day of meetings, race back.
Russian River Madness
Thursday morning at Saralee’s it was a like a battlefield; every Vintner wanted their fruit off, many thousands of tons. Unruffled, Saralee sat amidst it all, phone in hand, never terse, always calm and friendly, marshalling troops like a General, as trucks rolled in and out. “This one to Napa” “That one to
Crushpad” “The next to San Fran”. I sat in awe and renewed admiration that my 4 half ton lots even registered, but she treated me as if I was some major label driving off with a semi truck load, not a trailer behind my Toyota FJ.
Technically, most of my harvest this year isn’t really “garagiste” depending on your definition. I have a crusher/destemmer and a basket press at home; but it simply wasn’t practical for this scale, nor do I (yet) have a forklift, and I needed a better press to whole cluster press the whites. I have small lots of each fermenting in the garage, and I did 1/4 ton of Sangiovese again this year by hand; but I decided at the beginning of Harvest, given I was paying 2k/ton for high quality fruit, a better facility was needed.
I lucked out in that I had friended Steven Washuta, a bright young gentleman, and recent graduate of Oenology from Walla Walla, who relocated here this summer to start as an Assistant Winemaker at a nearby, small winery, below radar to many, called Old World Winery. Darek Trowbridge is the winemaker and proprietor. Darek is an affable, hard working, passionate wine maker; we hit it off right away, and he agreed to let me to the bulk of my project at his facility.
Darek is a huge proponent of Natural Wine Making, long before it became the cool thing to do. This meant I had to jump more quickly dainto things I had planned, like native yeast fermentation, but I am glad I did. Darek has been supportive, patient, and he (and Steve) have been a Godsend. As blessed as I am to live in this wonderful region surrounded by wines; its in many ways the people here that enrich and fulfill my life, and I have been blessed, via the wine industry, to make the friendships of many great people, such as these too. (I have more to thank as well…next post.)
More on Old World Winery in a future post; now that Darek is focused on making them no longer a secret, the word is already spreading quickly, as popular wine writer and reviewer Steve Heimoff wrote about Darek and Old World this week.
Back To Harvest
Thursday was a busy day, but went quite well. My biggest disappoint of the day was I got a good bit less grenache than hoped, the one I actually wanted more of. Nothing could be done, and I was damn lucky I got what I got. (I am looking for more still, realizing at this point its going to be already fermenting or done. Will gladly pay for 200-500 pounds of crushed or pressed if know if any excess.)
We whole cluster pressed the Marsanne and Roussanne. For experimentation I kept a small portion of each aside and did some skin contact for 24 hours. The Grenache and Syrah were destemmed (a small amount of whole cluster with stems went into the bottom of each bin) lightly crushed to break the skins, and briefly cold soaked. I took a small amount of Syrah and Grenache must (grapes and juice) home and pressed it for a 5 cases of a blended Rose.
The next day the rain began, and didn’t end for days. The cold temps and native yeast took a while for fermentation to kick off, but all are happily fizzing and bubbling away, and I beam over them like a proud expecting father.
The Quest for M – Mourvedre
One dilemma loomed…as I have shared, one of the main reasons I did so many varietals was for blending…and I really wanted to make a GSM. (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre.) I thought I had lots of time…Mother Nature was throwing me curve balls. I had banked on Paso, as they usually harvest right before Thanksgiving. Rarely seen frost, and rain blew this. I knew I had to drive elsewhere, little exists (for sale) in Sonoma County…but more widely grown in Paso Robles, Santa Ynez, Lake County and Livermore. Calls everywhere were coming up empty. The GSM was going to be a bit lopsided without any ‘M’ and I was already short on Grenache which I had hoped to be a dominate varietal. What would this hopeful Rhone Ranger wannabe do? Stay tuned!