NPA 2010, or “i like what i love”
“i like what i love…wait does that even make sense? i think i need some sleep.”
– Hardy Wallace
People, in their romantic view of winemaking, always tell me that they would like to work a harvest sometime to get a feel for what winemaking is all about. to that i always tell them that to get a feel for it you actually need to work a crush.
The first (and only) time i worked a crush i hadn’t a clue what i was in for. Sure, grapes are harvested during the day, which is backbreaking work if you’re doing it by hand, but wine, it seems, is made at night. It’s a time when you get to see all the unromantic bits of making wine, climbing into tanks with a high pressure hose to clean them at at 2AM, shoveling must that has spilled on to the floor at 3AM, nearly slicing off a finger and not realizing it because your fingers are so cold.
One of the bits of insight i gained from this experience was a new found appreciation of great winemakers talents. i never again saw winemaking through the pseudo-mystical/alchemical romanticism oftentimes ascribed to this winemaker or that winemaker. i realized that a good part of it was in the work ethic, the ability to make corrections after 24, 32, even 48 hours of no recognizable sleep, to have so much invested in the wine that, for a short while you are literally putting everything you have into it. The inspiration/perspiration cliche never made more sense than during those weeks. So when i arrived at Salinia Wine Company (makers of Lioco, The NPA, and Salinia wines) two weeks ago, during their crush, i knew, if only slightly (i only did one crush during my time working in Champagne), the dedication to the craft.
There was a monosyllabic Kevin Kelley, a bleary eyed Hardy Wallace talking in Zen koans, monosyllabic interns, a whole somnabulant winery dutifully footstomping grapes, taking tests, cleaning tanks, all with slightly worried looks on their faces, knowing that at any moment the other shoe could drop after days of sleeping 2-3 hours per night. While the end result is intensely pleasurable (that’s why they do, fyi. it’s a job and not a job, as Hardy and Kevin have said in not so many words), making wine as non-interventionist as Kevin does is, i would imagine, a harrowing experience, adn one, if i may put it bluntly, that takes balls.
The actual feet
As you might know 2010 was a cold year in California, which will lead even the biggest proponents of ripeness and wine cocktails to make lighter wines. For someone like Kevin who wants acid first and foremost, the result is near perfect (i say near because the yields were so low and some vineyards were either lost or totally unavailable to him).
Just in from the vines
We tasted through a host of things, from a skin fermented sauv-blanc, a whole cluster fermented sauv-blanc, to a grenache something blend (there may have been counoise, which is a word i love) that was still warm and fermenting. It tasted like slightly boozy grapejuice, and my wife remarked that it even tasted healthy, somewhere between juice you’d have with breakfast and Thierry Puzelat’s effervescent Ko rose. We also got to see Pinot Gris in its real state, which is a strange purplish gray color, something i had never realized, despite my non-existent ampelography education.
The NPA wines, in their wonderfully fresh, bright, unsulfured state were the best i’ve yet had. Now get some sleep guys.
Gus, Emily and Hardy
Hardy Wallace, Walking Dead at this point