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We celebrated the first day of spring with a rainstorm that lasted all weekend but in the canyon leading to the Berryessa Gap the redbud trees were spectacular in full bloom. The grape buds of a few varieties are beginning to push (some say burst!). These transitional periods can be a little confusing but I guess we will have to agree with the calendar and say it is spring. It’s hard to tell when you are this far away but I think we are now closer to the harvest of 2011 than 2010. Pretty hard to imagine but true. Time is indeed moving very fast.
Sometimes time seems to move faster than at others. The onset of spring is certainly one of those times. We visited the vineyard last week and we found a tightly wound spring (yea yea). The vines stood yet un pruned and seemingly dead in their lack of green. Shoots that bore last year’s fruit were naked and spent.
In contrast the hills of Berryessa Gap were brilliant green, full of promise and the sun was strong and warm. As we walked and talked about pruning and shoot number we could feel that at any moment the 2011 vines would be here.
Kaboom presto changeo! Wish us luck.
While winter is not over I am beginning to feel the stirrings of excitement. The days are lengthening by more than a minute every day. It may not sound like much but it adds up – we are moving out of winter. It is almost time for my favorite vineyard activity – pruning. For now we have to hold off but I am mentally ready. All the leaves are off the vines and the canes that bore last year’s crop are brown dormant sticks tangled together and with trellis wire. In those canes lie the hopes of this year’s crop. How many shoots will we leave, was there enough growth last year and how much fruit will we get? Answers to these questions ultimately affect fruit quality at harvest. With the responsibility of answering the questions comes anticipation, hope, promise and excitement. Bring it on!
Last week a group of us took a trip to the big city to visit TCHO chocolate. Those of you that attended our recent wine and chocolate night will remember that I was impressed with TCHO’s commitment to quality and social justice. Our visit just put more frosting on the cake. Their enthusiasm and knowledge were extraordinary and infectious.
Cocoa beans for TCHO are grown all over the world by farmers that are treated honestly and humanely. They believe that having a cooperative relationship with growers is not only the right thing to do but it also produces a superior product. We all ate it up (intentional)! TCHO asked us to bring some wines along and we went through the painful process of tasting the wine with their chocolate. We are making plans to further our relationship with TCHO and will keep you posted. In the meantime check em out http://www.tcho.com/
You may have heard that a Berryessa Gap wine was on the recent San Francisco Chronicle list of top 100 wines of 2010. I wonder what this means because we have many friends making fabulous wines – some of them right here in Western Yolo County. I think it means what we always knew – our wines can stand up to any. Only a few years ago few took Western Yolo County wines seriously, now that may have changed. While I am pleased and proud to be on the list, I see the accomplishment as something I want to share with our neighbors. In addition to wine, our region is a culinary dream capable of completing an entire meal. We are surrounded by producers of fruit, nuts, vegetables meat and poultry equal to any in the world. Berryessa Gap is proud to be part of that. Pretty cool.
A deluge of rain last Saturday night, the vineyard is waiting for a good frost to lose all its leaves and I am certainly thinking of winter. Most of you will be gathering for Thanksgiving, huddling for warmth, comfort and to remind ourselves of our good fortune. We all need a little help to get through the winter. We are certainly thankful that you are paying attention to what we do at Berryessa Gap.
I am taking a break from wine talk to let you know how much we appreciate you. We are in business, so we certainly want to make a little money, but my greatest satisfaction comes when people tell me that they had a great meal or time with friends and our wine was part of it. Thank you all very much; you make it worth the effort. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. We all need a little help to get through the winter.
We were hard at work the other day tasting wine so we could tell you what it tasted like:
Mike: umm red raspberries
Dan: don’t you think black raspberries?
Megan: I don’t know, licorice to me
Everybody wrong? Everybody right? Who knows? Does right or wrong exist (within a believable realm)? Sort of frustrating in our mission to give you all some usable information when you are considering one wine or another. I could say everybody has their own taste and it is up to the individual but does that help?
To make matters worse some wine folks use terms I don’t understand. I kid you not; I just went to a prominent wine website and copied the first description I came to. Believe me, I didn’t search around.
Here it is:
"A minerally spine drives this, with the core of damson plum, raspberry ganache and blackberry fruit staying sweet but racy and defined. Violet and graphite hints add length on the mouthwatering finish. Drink now."
Does that help you? Do you even know what half that stuff is or what they would all taste like together? Why doesn’t it say it tastes like wine or even Malbec?
We want your help.
What information is helpful to you?
We picked the last grapes of 2010 last week and they’re now in fermenters (Included are a few varieties that you haven’t previously seen from Berryessa Gap. We’ll see, but they may be special wine club treats.). Several varieties are already in barrels.
I am not sure where I first heard it but I was reminded of a song “glad to see you come, glad to see you go”. The harvest and I had a good time together but it’s time to say goodbye. It’s time to take the baby home and care for it until the coming out party. Stay tuned and enjoy the fall.
Almost all the grapes are now in the winery and the excitement of my last message is turning to a slight case of fatigue. The hard work is paying off, the Malbec and Tempranillo fermentations are done and the wine is safely in barrels and that is my new source of excitement. Never will a harvest go by that isn’t declared the “best ever” (just our optimistic nature I suppose) but the fruit we have this year looks like the “best ever”. I will keep you posted as we care for this wine and prepare it for your glass.
As the harvest and crush continues I am constantly aware of the debt we owe our Jefe de Bodega Santos del Toro. Here he is and if you see him around don’t forget to give him a big gracias.
In the words of one of my heroes, (and I am sure yours) Jackie Gleason – “AND AWAY WE GO!”. The 2010 Berryessa Gap Harvest is underway.
On Friday (August 20) we picked our first grapes. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc arrived in the winery and are in the good hands of Santos and his crew. The grapes will be chilled overnight and crushed in the morning.
I will be chronicling the harvest for you so stay tuned.