Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's about the Land

The land is everything. It takes all of ten seconds here to understand that building a palatial mansion here would be like going to the opera and bringing along a Gameboy. When it is this good, leave it alone!

The structure is really engaging to me on an individual level; I love unique and thoughtful homes. Designing the house as a compliment to the land is a real pleasure, but the intent is always to celebrate the land and to keep my imprint entirely subordinate to the land. I feel a deeper connection to the land than to any impact I will ever have upon it. Grape Hill is about the topography; 360 degree views of unique land forms stretching out for many miles.

The fertility here is meant to produce crops. Farming gives us purpose upon this land. There is form and function in our soil, in the rain and sun and wind. This is elemental. Moreover, the land came before the society that we have built in this country and even if someday everything else goes to hell in a hand basket, the land will remain. If we need to plant our own food crops and raise beef or sheep or chickens, we can do that and not be too much the worse for wear.

Our Little Vineyard is planted on SW-facing 25 degree slope at 1250 feet above sea level. Rainfall averages 14 inches per year. The rich loess soil runs sixty feet deep before there is a grain of rock. Drainage is sufficient, while water retention is naturally balanced to support root development. With due respect to the wonderous rock rangers who swear by the qualities found in tough riverbed soils, the physical properties found at Grape Hill are a viticulturists' dreamland. Excited winemakers who know little about the demands of growing grapes always urge me to plant out dozens of acres. For now, I know just enough to be certain that disaster will follow anyone who plants a big vineyard without a full time commitment. The learning process has a long way to go before any decisions are made...

Last night, we enjoyed one of the unoaked blends from last year's "post-birds" crop. It is settling down a little just three hours on air before drinking. This is quite a lovely wine, with velvety tannins, plum and cherry notes, just a touch of chocolate. I got a minor hint of carbolic on this bottle...a faint fizz on the tip of my tongue. Will look for that on the next one. Why aren't more American vintners willing to waive off the wood from quality reds? There is certainly a place for these well-crafted summer drinks. Heck, all over Bordeaux this is precisely the sort of wine that goes with the season. You don't see anyone in Bordeaux opening first growths or even fifth growths at a summer table, not unless there are foreign buyers seated there. Perhaps I will always prefer the liberation of making wine with no commercial intent? The freedom to control production from the vineyard to the bottle is so joyful in itself.

We will be making something like fifty cases of red blends this year. My hope is to focus on two bottlings, The Twins, meant to be enoyed side-by-side. The first will be cab-dominant with 20% to 30% syrah. The next will be syrah-dominant with 20% to 30% cab. We will likely make another unoaked field blend including cab franc and merlot for immediate enjoyment.

No comments: