As some of you may know, I am off of the grid for a week pouring and discussing Ledge wines with a group of river adventurers in Idaho.
Back at the homestead, veraison has started coloring up our grapes and we are getting charged up for harvest.
A full report will be forthcoming when I am back home and in cell phone range.
Our family has been playing lots of Gin Rummy.
Lightnin' Hopkins is the preferred soundtrack.
I won't get into which version we play, but up until bedtime we play as a family and share the day's news, gossip and of course "smack talk" as is common in many parlor games.
Our butternut squash, pride and joy and the most skillful smack-talker has gone to bed and it's time for a husband and wife game.
I'm about 90 points behind and need to focus.
We'll talk to ya later.
July 31, 2019
Paso Robles, CA
“Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those whom we cannot resemble.”
― Samuel Johnson, The Rambler
I haven't read a lick of Samuel Johnson outside of the quote above. That said, me gusta.
My friend Michael, a sommelier in Los Angeles, asked me if I could name a musical equivalent to the Adams Ranch wines from Ledge.
"Ugh" I'm thinking, "Enough with these exercises." but I bit.
With surprisingly little hesitation I offered up Yma Sumac and sent him a video.
"What did I just watch?" He quipped, 15 seconds into "Chuncho".
""Listen to the whole thing." I say, "She is a revelation. Completely different, experimental and yet with an absolute sense of place."
A while later he picked up on her sound and saw where I was coming from.
So, yeah. Yma Sumac. Chuncho makes me smile. Takes me places. The other answer would have been Lou Reed.
"Hey Mark, if your wine was an architectural period, which one would it be?"
Seriously? I can't even-
There is no way you could expect me to-
Basque seems like a good one.
Michael really only asked about musical comparisons, and I actually love to compare and contrast wine with other universal curiousities.
In other news, I will be curating the wine program for an upcoming river adventure in Idaho. We are bringing 4 wines, the JBV Counoise Rosé, the G2 Grenache Blanc, MCA Cuvée and Rolph Family Vineyard Grenache. Should be a hoot.
We had a delightfully informative visit and tasting with Josh Raynolds of Vinous, a human being who is intimidatingly well-versed in just about everything. Bone up on the Genius Edition of Trivial Pursuit if you intend to give him audience. Prepare backup. Seriously.
Thank God for Ciera when Josh is around. She can occupy him with things like the history of Bayreuth while I look up who in the heck Frederick Law Olmsted was. It was a joy to see him again.
Hey, before I forget, James McMurtry is playing in Tin City this Friday, August 2. His song Choctaw Bingo is something to check out if you are unfamiliar.
The next stop for Ledge is the Idaho River Adventures trip followed by a winemaker dinner and market visit down in New Orleans, where we just picked up distribution. Pumped about those events. Last I checked there were a pair of seats still available on the rafting trip, August 15-20 on the middle fork of the Salmon River.
After that harvest will be nigh which means a ridonkulous hairdo is in order. This year it will be a mullet. I haven't had a haircut in a while, so the results should be downright horrifying.
Stay tuned and thanks for reading!
What-wha-what-what-what's it all about?
1. The Fin, Grenache, planted 2010
2. Lake Block, Roussanne, planted 2015
3. Bunk House, Syrah (Counoise, Roussanne, Grenache and Grenache Blanc elsewhere), planted 2016
4. Ledge Block, Syrah, planted 2005
5. Baby Block, Cinsaut, planted 2017
6. Meter by Meter, Syrah, planted 2016
7. Lake Block, Grenache, planted 2015
Smoke from the barrel of my 17 HMR lingers and yet the varmints reproduce at a dizzying rate.
Incessant humping by the "yellow-toothed ground goblin" has proved to be a nuisance, but thanks to some sturdy sights, I sleep soundly at night and most of the damage hitherto has been avoided. We're doing our best.
Our Baby Block of Cinsaut is flourishing in it's second year and I have a good mind to plant the rest of this ranch to head-trained vines at 11'x11' spacing.
Don't tell the head office that I have plans to expand the vineyard. I might be summarily dispatched.
The wide spacing allows for great vigor and water efficiency, and scoping out the aforementioned enemy is a snap. Those little bastards have no place to hide.
The meter by meter Syrah block is a fruitful yet beastly way to farm. It might do me in.
I'll send photos of everything next week. Bunkhouse, Orchard, Lake and Meter by Meter blocks will all be giving us significant new fruit. Exciting!
Send ice packs.
If the purpose of life's journey is to gradually invent oneself from cradle to grave, the identity of a vigneron presents a challenge to that ideal. For those unfamiliar, vigneron is a French term which has no English equal. Winegrower comes pretty close. A vigneron plants and farms an estate while also crafting and bottling wines from each successive vintage. Soup to nuts. Kit and caboodle.
The "genius" of a wine estate lies in the ability to maintain excellence, not to annually re-invent transcendental fruit and therefore wines. I would posit that it is a relatively monotonous existence to be a vigneron. This is not to say it is soulless, on the contrary. I personally find the duality of artisanal and agricultural life to be deeply spiritually rewarding. It is however formulaic and in that sense a somewhat static existence. I welcome opinions to the contrary, but the process of farming, fermentation and élevage involve the basic unwavering scientific processes of ripening, fermentation and integration. There are a great many other details that vary from cellar to cellar, but there are clear limits to the exploratory potential of farming and producing. It is also significant that for the most part, oenophiles prefer consistency, not existential grape-juice vision quests.
There are of course exceptions to every rule and I am lured yet again into what many consider to be winemaking’s parallel universe: music.
The creme de la creme of music is widely considered to be classical. To that end, opera is classical music’s most widely lauded vessel. Staging and wardrobe may be fluid throughout the ages, but the formula, the music and the libretto, remain consistent. The art form has been perfected, the score is the law and deviation is not acceptable.
On the flip side of that coin is popular music, blessed with endless creative options both within compositions and throughout the lifetime of the artist. Genres are invented regularly and the scope of popular music is essentially infinite.
One can argue that winemaking has endless explorative possibilities, with over 10,000 different grape varietals, undiscovered terroir and new methodology helping to perfect and develop our craft every harvest.
To summarize this rant, I m surmising that Grand Cru and Opera may well be synonymous. There are absolute rules to greatness that consumers reward with loyalty.
As far as popular music, we have entered into a realm where “rock star winemaker” is actually a term. These winemakers often employ cutting edge techniques to farm, process, ferment, age and market wines with intent to cultivate a fan base of wine-club devotees.
I am proud to mention that my dear friend and mentor Justin Smith of Saxum is being honored as Winemaker of the Year in Paso Robles. I think they ought to just make him a damn statue and make this a permanent distinction. He always encouraged us to develop a wine brand that spoke both our individuality and the fundamental principles rooted in terroir. Classical and popular musics dancing together so to speak. To throw the conventions and limitations of tradition out the window while keeping one foot firmly in the vat of the worlds greatest wine estates.
Rock me Amadeus.
Today I missed my brother.
So I called him.
Looks like we are golfing soon.
Mom and Dad took us to see Kenny Loggins at the California Mid-State Fair back in the 80s.
We saw Alabama that same fair.
Those dudes kicked ass.
Thanks Mom and Dad.
Don't nobody worry 'bout me
You got to gimme a fight
Why don't you just let me be
-Kenneth Loggins & Clark Loggins
Popular culture outlets generally describe the lifestyle of wine-farmers as delectable, romantic, intellectual, chic, luxurious, bacchanalian, worldly, artisinal, earthy, elite or in any number of other glossy magazine terms.
Sometimes it is none, one, many, or all of these things.
For me, familial sums it up best.
One of the most worldy people I have ever encountered in my life comes from this little town of Templeton.
A neighbor since before kindergarten, he barely socializes outside of church and gets by grazing a few cattle, making charcoal, fixing tractors and doing a few other simple but devoted tasks.
He is content in his Willow Creek shack (tin roof and all), eating simple foods and keeping to himself, even though he is reportedly worth a fortune in real estate. None of his lands are planted to grapes and nothing is for sale. He drives the same shitty little truck I have seen him driving for decades.
Pretty sure he is a bachelor.
Always joyful. Always friendly.
Knows the going rate for diesel and tractor work every day.
His parcels mostly lay fallow as far as I know.
I don't ask.
I'm buying a used tractor from him sooner than later.
We exchange happy waves every time we pass on these country roads, which is almost daily.
I am too tired to continue tonight.
I'll be back to the bachannalian bounce of the tractor tomorrow.
Night Ma, night Pa.
Night brother dude.
Night Sister lady.
Night sweet wife and yer folks.
Nighty lil' bean bag daughter-girl.
Trumpets and violins I can hear in the distance
I think they're calling our names
Maybe now you can't hear them, but you will
If you just take hold of my hand
Ah but Are You Experienced
Have you ever been experienced
Not necessarily stoned, but beautiful
(Jimi Hendrix, Are you Experienced)
Summer is officially here!
The weather on the ranch this week has been pretty wild. Running hot and cool. It was i the 100s earlier this week but today was quite pleasant. This grape growing region benefits from extreme diurnal shifts, which are especially dramatic in the Willow Creek sub AVA. We often experience days in the 100s followed by evenings in the 60s. The vines love these blasts of heat and sun in the daytime, maximizing growth and ripeness follwed by a cooling ocean-influenced recharge overnight.
We are doing irrigtion repairs in the vineyard to make sure all of our younger blocks get the water needed to thrive. We've already done our shoot thinning and preliminary fruit drop, ensuring maximum, even ripenning and allowing for air to flow through the canopy. This is especially helpful to prevent mildew and rot which can be brought on by foggy socked in mornings.
We've bottled the Adams Ranch and James Berry Vineyard 2017s which will ship to wine club in the Fall and are enjoying having the little one around during the day. We made a Sunday trip to Lake Nacimiento for some boating and rock diving and Ciera took Elizabeth to The Ravine water park yesterday fo some dare-devil watersliding fun. We hop you all are enjoying your Summer. Good time of year for rosé and Grenache Blanc.