Updated 2009-08-27 15:03:37 ID=476:0

© 2009 The Romantic Table
©2009 The Romantic Table 2009-02-17 09:52:55:123
©2009 The Romantic Table

Larry McGourty writes about wine and food

Getting Ready For The Wine Harvest

The days are still warm but the nights are getting cooler, it is almost harvest time in Paso Robles.

This week I spent a morning walking the Sangiovese of our vineyard assessing the crop for our ranch manager Ken McGourty. I also re-set up our sampling points we use for quality control. It gets hot by mid-day, so you want to get up early and get your work done in the cool mornings. Every time I walk the vineyard, I am still amazed at how beautiful the Central Coast is, especially in the mornings

It can take a little effort to enjoy it how ever. Usually when you are pruning or working in the vineyard you work in a limited area as you move along. Doing a survey you walk the WHOLE area. On the rugged Paso Robles west side in the Adelaida region where our vineyard is, we are right up in the Santa Lucia Mountains. That is one step behind mountain climbing! Well... after a hour or so it seems that way. Anyway it's good exercise and a whole lot better than jogging in some smoggy city park.

Despite the drought, the crop looks pretty good this year. It's better than last year when we had a lot of shattering (when berries fall of the cluster of grapes). We are almost up to final Brix (a measure of sugar content) and acidity and we will begin to start the harvest of the Sangiovese in a week or two. One little perk of the job is I get to keep the few pound of clusters we sampled for size and weight. I dutifully turned them over to Chef Sue and we had our first Wine Country Cobbler (Schiacciata a l'uva) of the all too short Sangiovese harvest season. All in all a pretty good compensation for all the vineyard trekking.

Our vineyard has a lot of elevation differences. The physiological development of the vines do vary with elevation, the higher warmer areas mature more quickly than the lower areas. You can see and especially taste the difference in gapes as you walk up and down the hillside. Luckily in Paso Robles, our growing season is long enough to ripen all the fruit. We have to harvest in sections however to get the fruit at its best. This is a lot more labor of course, but the results are worth it.

Walking up and down the hills taking a taste sample as you move along does make one reflect on the concept of minerality versus fruitiness. As you sample the grapes at different elevations, you can taste the developing fruit profiles of a single variety at different points in development side by side. The concept of minerality is lot more clear. As a "taste" it is a function of the maturity, or rather lack of maturity of the grapes. The more ripe the more fruit taste. Ripening is not a problem in Paso Robles, so you almost never hear anyone talking about the minerality of a local wine.

It really illustrates that old adage, wines are made in the vineyard. Maturity is a moving target. Right now the winemakers are now in the vineyards sampling too. They are looking for just the right levels of fruit, tannins etc... to create the style of wine they envision in their minds.

Like everything else important in life, timing is everything.

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A tip from Sue!

Mark perishable ingredients

When ever you bring home a brand new spice, oil, vinegar, flour, sugar or other perishable ingredient, mark the bottle/container with the day’s date with a felt tip pen. Most "permanent markers" will write on just about any container.

That way if you don’t use it very much, but it’s been opened, you know how fresh it is. For an important meal don’t “submarine yourself” by using past expiration ingredients that have long lost their fresh taste and flavor.