Organolepticians Number 86 (October 18, 2012)
Is a body in motion
Just a lonesome ocean,
Goin’ and goin’,
East to West,
All night and all day,
With nothin’ to say
To a body at rest? *
One thing leads to another. I’m reading “The Art Of Fielding;” it’s late in the Summer. The Giants acquire Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence at the deadline. Things start to fall into place. Herman Melville travels to Wisconsin, and I’m suddenly consumed with a longing to read “Moby Dick.”
It’s been dry and moderately warm for weeks on end; sure as the stars are in the firmament, and fish are jumping, I’m out on the highway, headed for the grape fields of the Sierra Nevada foothills. Wondering when all hell’s going to break loose, when the grapes will be sweet.
We go for a hike. It’s my 65th birthday; climbing the steep switchbacks up a ridge in the Santa Cruz mountains, trying to wrap my head around that number, one foot in front of the next.
The Harvest is on the vine, the storms are on the ocean, the seeds are sown, the hawk’s on the wing. So slowly the color changes, one day is just like the next.
Drive East for a few hours, winding slowly up the hills, a landscape burned into my synapses over 25 years. Dry, dusty, then, endless rows of vines on uneven ground, thousands of grapes bit into, chewed, spat out, tasting for a sense of the field. A hawk wheels overhead, and glides out across miles, into thin air, and clean out of sight.
The wines are in the shops, on the lists, in the minds, on Facebook. Wine is a convivial beverage, wine is a food. Wine is a myth. Wine is intimidating. Wine goes with music, and baseball.
The Giants are starting to run away with the Western Division in their hip pockets. My heart soars like a hawk. I’m out on the highway, listening to the game, on my way to the grapes. Sandoval hits one into the gap, Pagan and Scutaro scoring. Posey goes deep, and breaks it open. The grapes are getting sweet!
In the mornings, now, with my coffee, a few chapters of “Moby Dick.” Put up at the grim sign of the Thunder Cloud! Spurn the idol and the hideous dragon! Turn from the wrath to come! Look to windward! Look! Toward the wide and endless waters! Old age is always wakeful… Roll on, you deep and dark blue ocean, roll!
I’m out on the highway. All Hell is breaking loose. One day is just like the next, only more so. There’s a hawk over the canyon, as the heat begins to rise; in the Spanish moss, and white oak, bees are singing. **
The phone rings; it’s a local wine writer, working on a book, wants to ask me some things. He’ll meet me Monday morning at the house, around 10, unless there are grapes.
For 40 years now, I’ve been out on the highway, I’ve been learning to read the colors of the hills, I’ve been watching the sky. Learning the language of the vines’ song, the tilt of the seasons’ voices.
Monday morning I’m restless, waiting for my visitor. I decide we’ll sit on the back deck, looking out on the garden, and I need to sweep up the fallen leaves from the old apple tree, and the live oak.
Walking toward the back door, which frames a big window, I’m brought up short by the sight of a large bird perched on the birdbath beneath our pretty apricot tree. It’s a hawk! A thirsty young Cooper’s Hawk, descended from the heavens, like a smile. He spotted our small oasis on his morning rounds! I feel so blessed! He’s lovely!
I stand motionless, watching, as he gradually works his way from the rim down into the cool water, into the center of the bowl. It’s so still. He seems content to rest, taking occasional sips. Now and again he dips his beautiful sculpted head, then straightens up, shakes the water down onto his shoulders, then down his wings and breast, toward his submerged feet, shivering with apparent pleasure, and gathering ease.
Perhaps he’s just had breakfast. He’s there for 15 minutes before I retreat, oh so quietly, to the front door, where my guest is just mounting the steps. After our exchange of greetings, I’m anxious to share my dicovery, so I escort my guest to the back door for a look, while I pour him some coffee. We sit in the kitchen, and our conversation is quickly underway; for the next half-hour, at least, the hawk remains in our little “spa.” He’s clearly taking the morning off.
When all Hell breaks loose, it eventually runs out of steam; until then, I’m dancing as fast as I can. When the last pressload is tucked away for its long winter nap, maybe I’ll have time to sort it all out. At some point I lose track of time, or it loses track of me. At some point, when I look out again, through the back door, the hawk is nowhere to be seen.
Peace to you, in this dark season, turning.
Steve and Cornelia
Cooper’s Hawk drawing by Erin Edmunds.
*Body In Motion, copyright Steve Edmunds 2012.
**Son Of The Redwood Coast, copyrightSteve Edmunds2001.
2011 Heart of Gold 51% Grenache Blanc 49% Vermentino, from Fenaughty Vineyard, Apple Hill District, Placerville.
No longer able to depend on the quality from our former source for these varieties, we turned to new plantings at Fenaughty Vineyard, which has long been a source of really good Syrah, and Grenache. The quantity was tiny in 2011, because the plantings were producing only their first crop, but the quality seems quite promising.
The color is quite golden, the nose shows apple, a whisper of Meyer lemon, ginger, and an earthy, stony background. Flavors both crisp and long. Should be a really versatile wine at the table.
$20.00 per bottle ($175 per case!)
2011 Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir Barsotti Ranch, Apple Hill District, Placerville.
All our red Gamay from 2011 is from the Barsotti Ranch, grown in soils made up of weathered and decomposed granite. Gamay has a particular affinity for granite, and we feel extremely lucky to have found a site to plant Gamay that seems to provide both the cool-climate the variety requires to produce its best wines, and the granite soils that seem to give them backbone, nerve, and perfume. 2011 is the fifth year we’ve taken grapes from Barsotti, and the very best of those five.
The color is a deep vibrant purple-edged ruby. The smells include violets, raspberry, a little cracked pepper, mulberry, and a dash of iron. Great freshness on the palate, with flavors that are full, focused, and, for now, direct and primary. It’s delicious at the table, presently, and yet, a few years in bottle will likely give even greater depth, complexity, and satisfaction.
$20.00 per bottle ($200 per case!)
2011 Rocks And Gravel 57% Grenache, 43% Syrah from Unti Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Healdsburg.
2011 was one of the coolest vintages in my experience over the last 40 years, though perhaps ’98 was colder. At the end of October it became clear that the Mourvedre at Unti would not ripen sufficiently to give red wine that showed Mourvedre to any advantage, so we decided not to include any in the ’11 Rocks And Gravel. The Grenache and Syrah were lovely, and after fermentation and élévage in concrete, made for a unique rendition of this traditional blend.
Pretty, dark ruby-red color, lovely mineral and fruit-tinged aromas, fresh, savoury, and thirst-provoking. After a bit, the raspberry from the Grenache, and the smoke from the Syrah poke through just a little, but the melange is seamless. Medium-weight flavors, silky textured, with fine delineation and nerve, tremendous length. Really delicious, now, should be great over the next five or six years.
$27.00 per bottle ($270 per case!)
2011 Fenaughty Vineyard Syrah Apple Hill District, Placerville.
As mentioned in last year’s Fall newsletter, the Syrah at Fenaughty withstood a substantial rainstorm in the second week of October 2011, but by the 24th had pulled itself into shape, and the grapes were flavorful and lovely. For quite a number of years, starting in 1998, we’d blended Syrah from Fenaughty and Wylie vineyards to produce our Syrah bottling. The Wylie property is the same one that produced our first few vintages of Heart of Gold, and, as with the white grapes in ’11, we felt more comfortable using the Fenaughty Syrah grapes on their own, and I think the result is terrific.
It’s a deep purple-red color, with a fresh, smoky-peppery bouquet that seems to gain depth with air. There’s a pretty mixture of flavors, and the texture is grippy and engaging. It’s not what is often referred to as a “big” wine, but it strikes me as generous, harmonious, and truly a pleasure to drink, even at this early stage of the game. See what you think!
$30.00 per bottle ($270 per case!)
We’ll be pouring the wines listed above at our December 9th event. Hope you can make it!
PLEASE JOIN US !!!
EDMUNDS ST. JOHN
Fête du Vin Extravaganza
Sunday, December 9th, 2011 From Noon-5pm
At Emmett Eiland’s,
1326 Ninth Street,in Berkeley
RSVP: 510981-1510 firstname.lastname@example.org