Couldn’t paint a more vivid picture of a Sonoma wine country vineyard than this view of some of the vines that go into making the wines of Gloria Ferrer. Though they produce still Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this California wine icon is best known for sparkling wine. I spent a couple days in the Carneros sub-region courtesy of Gloria Ferrer attending their “Hands on Harvest” (HoH) trip for a group of wine pros and writers.
And the HoH was no exaggeration, as we had a 6:30am departure time to pick Pinot Noir grapes that will be made into a (non-sparkling) wine for our enjoyment in about a year’s time. Suffice it to say that this is difficult work and we were just given a few token rows. In reality, the picking starts at 2am. Picking at night ensures that the grapes stay cool, retaining the acidity needed to create sparkling wine. And when you are making a clear wine from a red grape, in the case of most Pinot Noir that will become sparkling, warm grapes leach color.
HoH turned out to be surprisingly geeky as well. We learned about grapevine clones that were best suited to sparkling wine production via Vineyard Manager Mike Crumly. And how these clones journeyed (legally) from France’s storied Champagne region back to Sonoma. Years and years of waiting and patience (and expense) had to pass before these clones could be quarantined, tested, planted, bear fruit, become wine, become sparkling wine, age in the bottle, and then be released. Whew! Thankfully Gloria Ferrer started this whole adventure in 1982, so I could mature enough to be ready for this experience and not have to wait with my characteristic impatience.
During Mike’s vineyard shop talk, I jotted down a quote that he mentioned in the course of the morning: “Passion is where you spend your time.” I googled this quotation but was not able to find its original source. (Anybody know?) Regardless of where it came from, I know that it’s certainly applicable to Mike when it comes to his role in the vineyards.
And, yes, there was much eating and rejoicing over sparkling wine at HoH. I may have been wearing a lobster bib at some point. Time at the lunch or dinner table is a chief pleasure (and passion) when it comes to wine enjoyment, whether with one special person or a lively, thirsty group. (Also, sitting down to breakfast in the vineyards with the slightly sweet Va di Vi cannot be discounted. It’s got a touch of floral Moscato that makes it a winner for late-morning refreshment. Hey, we’d been up for hours.) But understanding the science of the vineyard helps flesh out the story of wine. Like a bottle of sparkling wine slowly transforming in a cool cave, some things take unseen effort and time to realize.
Special thanks to PR Ace and Shutterbug Tia Butts for the two images of me. Go forth to her Twitter account.