Notes from the Vineyard, Part I of ?

May 31, 2007

One of the really cool things about doing this blog in conjunction with Clos du Bois (I originally wanted to call this the Clos du Blog, but I got vetoed—which is good, I can’t imagine it being anything but swirling notions now) is having full access to all the people who shepherd the wines along, literally from vine to glass. Erik-and-keith

Yesterday, I got to tag along with Erik and his team of winemakers on a vineyard tour led by Clos du Bois’ viticulturalist  (the guy in charge of growing the grapes themselves), Keith Horn (Erik’s on the left, Keith on the right). For the winemakers, it was a sneak preview of the raw material they’ll have to work with come harvest, sort of the wine equivalent of a farmer taking chefs around and saying, “check out these peas, they’re going to be fantastic this year,” or “the carrots are tasting especially sweet this season.”

The morning started out foggy and the vigorous new leaves on the vines looked almost neon green against the gray sky. We bundled up, climbed into a cavalcade of trucks and drove down dirt roads from block to block (vineyards are often divided into different sections, or blocks, that are planted with different types of grapes). It’s just plain exciting to be out in a vineyard, really at any time of year, because the vines are so alive and dynamic during each of the seasons. But right now, in late May, the first little nubbins of fruit are setting into what will become actual clusters of grapes and everything is just brimming with POTENTIAL

ErikAt each stop, for each block, Keith would decipher for us what the vines were telling him (grapes are in the man’s blood and I’m telling you, you can almost hear the conversation going on between him and the vines). The winemakers listened and asked questions about yield and quality while I, like an over-eager second grader, asked about anything that made me go, “hmmm.” (“Why does that trellis look that way when the other one’s straight?” “Why does this row have grass and that one is plowed?” “Could I use these leaves to make dolmas?”). I can vouch for the fact that these guys are a patient bunch.

The upshot of yesterday is that I learned a ton — what “shatter” means (for some reason, I love that term as it applies to grapes), about different “clones” (in the good way, not the scary, sci-fi way) and, of course, the merits of tempranillo (Keith, if you’re reading, that was for you). But it’s waaaay too much to cover in one blog entry, so I’m going to chunk it down into digestible bites and write about a little at a time. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks.

One note that applies to any wine-related subject — mi experts son su experts. That was a bungled take on ‘mi casa es su casa’, but the point is, I’m sharing my access to Keith and Erik’s expertise with you. If you have a question, ask. If you have another subject you’d like to learn about, tell me. And I’ll get the answer for you. 

How cool is that?




7 Responses to “Notes from the Vineyard, Part I of ?”

  1. Maureen Says:

    Hi Lia,

    Thanks for sharing your notes on this blog. I am very interested in getting into wine as a career. My hesitation is that I enjoy wine so much, that I fear if I work in the industry it will no longer be “fun,” or I wouldn’t feel like drinking wine when I get home. (ie.when I worked in a mall, I no longer enjoyed shopping.) Do you ever feel that way?

  2. lia Says:

    That is such an awesome question, Maureen. I had the very same hesitation about becoming a writer (”I love it now, but if it becomes my career will I still love it?”) and again when I branched out into developing recipes (”I love cooking now, but if it becomes my career, will I burn out?”). So, yes, I do know exactly how you feel. And I can also tell you how it’s turned out for me . . . 98% of the time there is nothing I’d rather be doing than what I do (the other 2% I’d rather just be sleeping ).

    I can also relate to your question of whether or not wine loses its appeal when it becomes a full time job. When we first moved to wine country, I wondered whether we’d discover that all the people involved in the wine industry really drank beer! And while I can’t deny that beer is definitely consumed in the valley, my suspicions of any dirty little secret were unfounded. People here are simply passionate about wine and, for the lucky ones, they get to spend most of their waking hours steeped in it (in a good way). When we go over to a winemaker’s house for dinner, there will be lively talk about the wines people brought and an extra bottle or two opened to do comparitive tastings or illustrate a point. When we go out to dinner, you’ll see people with mud from the vineyards still caked on their boots poring over the wine list with as much care (or more) as the menu.

    Bottom line? I think if you find something you’re really passionate about, you’ll never really tire of doing it. Sure, you may burn out every once in a while, but overall it will provide you with a sustained, underlying joy. So if you’re passionate about wine — I say go for it Maureen!

  3. michelle Says:

    Hi Lia. Looking forward to your blog!!!! Sounds like a wonderful job, enjoy!

  4. lia Says:

    Thanks Michelle! I’m really excited to dig in. And I’ll look forward to seeing you here . . .


  5. […] to write a post on prolonging the pleasures of the tomato when I got another e-mail, this one from Erik telling me that Keith was bringing in the first grapes of the season—Sauvignon Blanc—and […]

  6. […] viticulturist and winemaker, and this one was (Clos du Bois’ Tempranillo vines are some of Keith’s babies). We swirled and there were blueberries, lingonberries and marmalade on the nose. We […]

  7. […] I talked to Erik, he and his team were all smiles. “We never thought it would happen, especially for a […]

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