Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Our first stop.

On our first real day in Sonoma (we spent Monday getting massages and consuming too much Mexican food), Jeremy & Mom went off to play golf in Bodega Bay, and Nick, Louisa, Miriam and I headed off to DeLoach Vineyards, just a mile or so down the road in Santa Rosa.

A friend of Jeremy's had (very generously) set us up with a tour in addition to our tasting, so when we arrived we were greeted by the hospitality manager, Lisa Vasse. Lisa was a great tour guide; like so many other people I've met in Napa and Sonoma, the wine industry is her second career (her first was in wine packaging, so not too far off the mark), and she's just downright psyched to be part of that world. It's really inspiring, actually, to spend a week meeting only people who are deeply engaged in and stimulated by their work.

Lisa took us on a tour of the winery, starting with the vineyards. The vineyards are all organic and biodynamic, meaning that they are farmed not only without pesticides, but also treats the farm as a living, breathing organism, capable of sustaining itself (but not capable of being pushed beyond its limits through chemical or artificial processes). This means that in addition tot he vineyards themselves, DeLoach also boasts an on-site organic garden, chickens, bees and sheep!

The garden and animals are reached by a path that winds past the winery's gorgeous guesthouse, which is reserved strictly for trade use. The wine industry is, by and large, about hospitality, and the guesthouses (most wineries have them) are where the winemakers entertain their clients.

The garden itself is rambling and windblown; the gardeners let things run their course here, so we saw not only perfectly ripe Sungolds (Lisa invited us to sample as many tomatoes as we liked; we were happy to oblige), but also late-season, flowering artichokes. It's pretty cool to see fruits and vegetables actually live out their life cycles; you don't get that opportunity too often here in Manhattan.

After a peek into the winery itself, where grapes were being moved out of the barrels after the first pressing, we moved on to the (epic) tasting. Lisa poured a dizying series of De Loach wines (Exhibit A: Miriam double-fisting below.), including a Sauvignon Blanc, a rosé, and some Pinot Noirs, Zinfandels and Chardonnays. Our favorites were the rosé (gorgeously dry but with a hint of fruit) and the OFS Chardonnay, a big, creamy wine completely devoid of the notorious California oakiness.

At the end, Lisa brought out a special treat: tawny port. She guessed right; she was working with a group of dessert wine fanatics, and we couldn't get enough. Rich and smooth but with a kick at the end, DeLoach port is fantastic. Three bottles made it into the case we took home, along with six bottles of rose and three of the chardonnay.

And, yes, I know you're wondering: we finished it all, save one bottle of port. We'll be drinking that at Christmas with our Christmas pudding (Miriam) and sticky toffee puddings (everyone).


Miles said...

Did the tour include any information about the astronomical and/or lunar principles of biodynamism? There are one or two vineyards here in NZ that practice biodynamic viticulture and I find it totally bizarre (granted I am skeptical about most things mystical or astrological). I would be interested to hear what they said about the effects of heavenly bodies on planting, harvesting or any other part of the winemaking process.

Meg Blocker said...

No, they didn't talk about astronomy at all! The vineyards are owned by a French, family-run corporation; don't know if astrological influences are big in French agriculture...

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