Updated 2009-09-26 17:57:16 ID=507:0

© 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

Harvest underway on the Central Coast


It's in the 100's on the Central Coast and the wine harvest is underway. Despite the drought, the quality looks pretty good.

Wow it's in the 100's on the Central Coast, we have had record heat for the past week. As luck would have it, the wine harvest is underway right now. Next week temperatures will drop back to normal or a little below and we will have some much needed relief.

Yesterday (Friday Sept. 25th) we finished picking all our Sangiovese. We still have some Zinfandel, Grenache, and Port varietals to go yet. Other than it being hot, it has been pretty uneventful so far.

Despite the drought, the grape quality looks pretty good. Tonnage will be down for those of us who dry farm. I am sure with the economy being down like it is, the vineyards as well as the wineries are breathing a sight of relief. Dropping perfectly good fruit without a home is a demoralizing process. It would be nice to be on an ascending line of growth again. But until the economy sorts itself out or better yet Americans decide that wine is a necessity instead of a luxury, we will be happy to at least break even.

One thing about being in the vineyard and actually tasting the fruit as you pick it, you really begin to understand that old adage that great wine is made in the vineyard. The complexity of wine grapes --especially dry farmed, is amazing. The trick of course is to capture the fruit at its peak and preserve those qualities that make a wine great.

Unfortunately even if you start with great grapes and handle them carefully, each step of processing does not augment the end product, it reduces it. Obviously some reduction of the natural product like converting sugar to alcohol is required and little touches like fining and filtering are appreciated. But the more you process, the more you lose. For me anyway, this is why the winemakers I admire most are minimalists. Not necessarily primitivists --I have no problem with modern techniques like sanitation, especially when you see what goes into the de-stemmer (From God's hands to your bottle we like to say). Although I have to admit I have had some really good wine where the winemakers chose not to filter, but they took a lot of care in the processing to make a clean end product. But some part of the processing like heavy oaking may not be necessary, and depending upon what the purpose of the wine is maybe not even a good idea.

Of course, a lot of technique is cultural and part of the heritage of winemaking. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not necessarily in tune with what is happening now in the market. When you look at the lists of wines most popular with restaurant diners, you see a lot of "simple" white wines at the top. I do not believe that it is just because of a lack of sophistication on the part of the servers giving diners better recommendations --although that is a real problem in the US. In most cases, these top wines are simpler wines that pair well with food. OK, real vinophiles may turn up their noses, but these wines are at least drinkable. The quick rise of the Italian Pinot Grigios imports can attest to that. The Italian wines are stripped down and made simply with one purpose, to consume with food, and they do that well. Now if the wine servers only knew enough to steer their patrons to a Per Bacco or Norman Vineyards Pinot Grigio, we would no doubt have a lot of Central Coast converts.

There will always be the Big Wines sought after by the wine cognoscenti to be savored by themselves. But as Americans become more comfortable and familiar with wine served with meals, I believe this trend of food friendly wines --especially among the Millennial generation will become the mainstay of the industry.




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A tip from Sue!

Choosing a pot

The first thing you to do is get decent cookware. Nothing is more serviceable than stainless steel, that’s what the pros use and is mandated for all commercial restaurants.

Save yourself a lot of trouble and get the best quality stainless steel that you can afford. A few basic sizes will take you a long way!