Yield vs. Flavor

Napa

Beneath the glory of Quercus lobata, the Valley Oak that tells you the state of the water table beneath...
Napa

...are the armies of immaculately trimmed vines:
Napa

Napa

With olives as companions...
Napa

...along with bits of truly California Kooky architecture that you must take seriously (or do you?) because it cost millions and millions and was done out of love...
Napa

...though the beauty of the simple and sensitive plantings around the kooky architecture outdoes the foreign stone by miles...
Napa

Napa

...and it is the dignity of the work that I really love.  The precision and care of the vines shows a craftsmanship that I adore and revere, no matter that it is probably mundane, or unnoticed by most visitors.  The endless washing of the floors, the crush, the care of the steel vats and pumps, the little on-site testing labs with forgotten coffee cups among the pipettes and beakers, the sturdy humble grape bins, the dazzlingly complex French and German machines that are part of the work that manages to go on here despite the flurry of drinkers, who are like constant tiny fruit flies hovering everywhere, non-threatening but annoying...

Bins for the grapes, which hold 1,000 lbs each:
 Napa

A bladder grape press:
Napa

The "jacks" of the grapes, their stems now separated from the berries:
Napa

We were told about Yield vs. Flavor.  Table grapes from California's Central Valley have a yield of ten to twelve tons per acre.  Wine grapes in Napa are intended to have a yield of three or three-and-a-half tons per acre.  More yield is one reason--though not the only reason--that flavor and intensity is reduced.  And the soil in Napa is poor compared to the richness of the Central Valley, and the vines are watered less here, and not stuffed with NPK to within an inch of their lives. 

The glimpses of the source of all the intense work:  the career-changer vintners and would-be vintners who went from high-paying medicine or management to low-paying winery marketing or into the iffy, risky business of growing, and the deceptively clad in thrift-store-clothes, immensely skilled Mexican laborers, who work like serene fiends cleaning and pumping and pruning and cleaning some more and moving and driving fork lifts through spaces with millimeters to spare. 

The expense of the land and the process (those German machines!  Literal miles of stainless steel pipes!), and the knowledgeable locals, who when a particular winery is mentioned, where so much effort and money and desire and love were raw displayed, say "Yes, utterly ordinary wine, don't you think?"   It all means pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure.  More than the grapes are endlessly pressed here.  There is an underlying and painful tension.  Yet it is so beautiful.

Napa
 

Comments

  1. Every winter there is a pruning contest , speed and canopy management are rewarded. Felcos are the pruner of choice, Corona 6310's are the loppers.Pre-harvest the rows are cut back with Corona hedge shears. All of it is an art.

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  2. Okay! So I am NOT wacko to think that it is a craft, lovingly done. Thank you, ks.

    ReplyDelete

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