Sunday, June 29, 2008

We Don't Call it Terroir in Texas

Looks like this is shaping up to be a Staycation-Summer here in Texas and that ain’t all that bad. At least we have real good red meat and long highways that take us into interesting places along the wine trail. It’s airplane (and bus and train) free and yes there’s a little work involved, a lot of sun and plenty of family and friends. Life is good. Witness one of the wonders of Texas, our group’s Terroir-child Gia, who is just about as happy with the Texas dirt as the vines and all the rest of the stuff that inhabits this crazy-wonderful state.

Blanco Texas is somewhere between Austin and San Antonio and in the summer, there’s always a little river rolling and a hillside to set upon and let the breeze cool one off. A little wine, and a little more wine and it isn’t too bad. Sure it isn’t Ischia or Lago di Como, but it is the life we have chosen.

After a Friday night marathon of restaurant visitations with “those who review”, whereupon we had sashimi for apps, pizza and mussels for secondi and gelato for dolce, I got up at 4:30 AM to make the trek to the Texas Hill Country. Around 9 AM I rolled into Austin to pick up the IWD, where she had a perfect espresso waiting for me. A block away we stopped at the Taco Shack for a prima colazione, one Espresso and two breakfast tacos later we headed for Blanco. It was shaping up to be one of those perfectly beautiful sky-full-of-Texas days. Hours later I’d be walking the vineyards with Giulio and we both remarked on the unbelievable quality of the Texas sky. Something about there’s always a cloud or two in the sky but the sun was always shining.

As we rolled into Stout Vineyards, there was a whole bunch of folks getting after the nets which were being put over the Syrah vineyard to protect the fruit from the birds. We had to do it this weekend, ‘cause Guy is heading to Washington D.C. for an Under the Texas Winemaking Tent event, on the National Mall during the July 4 week. He’s giving a talk about Texas terroir. Like Guy says, “We don't call it terroir in Texas, we call it dirt.”

The birds were angry and I caught a couple of the crazy ones dive bombing the vines, even though the grapes were a ways off from good eating. Actually, in this vineyard, harvest is looking to be around August 10-10 at this point. A good five weeks. Eight year old vines on caliche and all kinds of tough soil, good ventilation, great sun, but on those 4 acres maybe 2-3 tons a fruit will be delivered to the winery. A lot of work, but a lot more love. This is the love child of Mast Somm, Guy Stout, who is Texan through and through. He was busy that day unrolling bird netting and cleaning out irrigation lines, handing out clothes pins and watermelon.

Smile, Devon, look like you're enjoying it.

Our goal that day was to secure all the vineyards with the netting to protect the fruit from the birds. It was hot work with a lot of crouching and bending over. I am not a farmer and whenever I go into the vineyards I gain a lot of respect for those who toil in the fields. It’s punishing work. I am sore in places I forgot existed in my body.

No Ma, it isnt Gitmo

Yeah, this is kind of a momma-mia blog today, but hey, sometimes the wine god takes us into their hands and we are merely their slaves, building their pyramids and in return be rewarded with friendship, good wine, conversation, more wine, food and more food, a soft place to sit and with a little luck a cool breeze when it is all said and done.

Two thirds-way through the work a kind gent brought us some Chicken and Brisket from Riley’s Bar-B-Q in Blanco. Giulio and his wife Stacie brought an amazing Macedonia (fruit salad) and a brand spanking new rose from the Maremma from the Tenuta la Badiola estate. This was a wine that Alain Ducasse, chef at accompanying restaurant and spa L’Andana, asked the winery to make to go with his food served at the restaurant. This rosato called Acquagiusto. Italian rose from the Maremma, it doesn’t get any better.

Giulio in Vintage Polo Seersucker with the Maremma Rosato

Back to the vines, nothing like a little wine, some Bar-B-Q and watermelon to get one ready to go back to work. Wrong. I was wrangling for a nap, but no slacker am I, or my colleagues. So a few more hours and the job was done. The vineyard was wrapped up like a Christmas present.

Now we could unwind and have fun.

Guy has a funky barn and extended patio, more like a shed, but it works just fine. Devon Broglie from Whole Foods brought some vino and Giulio brought some Dolcetto and Barbera. Guy had a ton of NZ wines and other assorted outcroppings from some discarded warehouse. Tracie brought a Verduzzo tradizionale from Friuli and I gathered a few specimens. Anibal Calcagno of Brenner's Steakhouse was part of the party, a young somm from Houston who took notes and was too polite to correct one of my more erroneous assertions. We were rolling into the comfy padded chairs under the shed in the breeze. Life is good.

Master-Somm Farmer-John Guy and Italian Blogger-Principessa Tracie

Baby Gia entertained us with her little girl antics. Everyone’s child should be a Gia, a happy to be there soul. Love that little one, thanks momma Stacie and poppa Giulio for bringing her with ya.

What else is there to say? A long night that ended with Canadian ice wine somewhere just shy of 2 AM. Almost 24 hours nonstop.

Driving home today from Austin, I was fueld on espresso ( the Taco Shack was closed on Sunday) but it was alright ma. I just set my sights on Big D and the pool in the backyard. Somewhere along the late afternoon I made it into the cool waters, where my little piece of Texas sky was waiting for me.

Sitting here now back home listening to John Fahey strum his guitar, all of Texas is ripe with tomatoes, melons and soon, figs and grapes. This ain't such a bad place. It beats sitting on a slow train.

Isn't that just the prettiest little baby girl you ever did see?

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