Against last week’s backdrop of frenzied 2012 Presidential campaigning I found myself rooting around in the dry, yellow-leafed vineyards of my tranquil Guadalupe Valley looking for grapes that hadn’t turned to raisins yet. While pundits of every stripe weighed in with their predictions for the election I was on the phone texting local growers and winemakers …. Does anyone still have fruit for sale? As the hopes and fears of the USA peaked in anticipation of election results I absorbed myself with the tasks that will ensure my livelihood for another year in beloved Mexico. I contacted everyone I could think of who might have a lead on late harvest grapes. In part I wanted to make up for the disappointment of my salty Barbera (more on that later) and try my hand again at carbonic maceration. In part I just wanted to keep the momentum going, I did not and still don’t want to stop. And in part, working at the very mundane tasks of daily survival was a necessary balance to the furious political rhetoric of the highly emotional and polarized race for Presidency.
The election is over. The harvest is finished. There are no more grapes in the field, and life goes on …
I was with my friend Iker one day last week and he said: “SITARA: STOP MAKING WINE! You’ve made ENOUGH. Now just take care of your babies. You can make more next year.” I’m perfectly satisfied to wait four years for another Presidential election but waiting nine months till I can harvest more grapes is agony! If I could I would do this year-round. Hmmmm, I wonder if it’s possible that there are grapes still on the vine somewhere else in the world at any given time. Australia maybe? What a gas it would be to spend 2 or 3 months in each major (or minor) grape growing region around the world, participating in the harvest and learning their vinification methods. Wow, what a thought. Manic? Moi? That would be the ultimate in following my bliss. No harm in dreaming I say.
Several days ago I sampled from my barrels. The wines are bright, young and fruity with a touch of tightness in the tannins which I attribute to the agitation of racking then moving the wine from the living room to the spare room. I believe that my babies will settle down and soften up in the cold and dark over the winter. It’s a thrill to observe their development and will be fascinating to see how barreling will shape their maturation.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that I racked the Barbera again and am still not happy with this quirky wine. Actually I panicked and decided the wine was no good. I called my winemaking friend Tom Toscano and told him I wanted to distill and make Brandy out of it. He told me that I was jumping the gun and to give it some time. So I’m going to give it some time …. But my gut feeling was that the only way to recuperate this wine other than to distill it was to get another barrel and age it. I spoke with another of my mentors, Andres Blanco and he concurred that I should relax, barrel the Barbera and use it to blend. It could be just the right savory element that the Syrah will need, for instance. The Barbera was to be my first release, my Vin Nouveau. It is in the barrel now maturing with all the others, however. There will be no Valley Girl Autumn wine this year. We will have to wait for Spring for the earliest bottling.
Why was I so unhappy with the Barbera, you ask? It’s salty. Not a pleasant hint of the sea found in many Australian and some French wines which is an expected savory expression of the “terroir” of these regions, but a full-on assault of salinity. Another friend, Jose Morfín who works for both Monte Xanic and Nativo tactfully called it “minerally.” You may recall, Dear Readers, that my Barbera harvest was distressful. The fruit came covered in mud with many damaged clusters and very uneven ripeness. I spent nine hours with the help of two local women cleaning and sorting the grapes and threw out six crates that were unusable to me. Good wine begins with good fruit, i.e., good vineyard management and a clean harvest. I learned an important lesson this year. Like the nation I harken from, just north of the border, I draw strength from my victories and learn from my mistakes. But always will keep my eyes fixed on that distant horizon …. Viva el Vino!
And that, my friends, is my State of Libation Address for today. Onward and upward!