Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cerro Prieto....Frequently asked questions, also known as FAQs.

Just about this time last year, near the end of winter and beginning of spring, it was hard to tell, due to the 3 continuous years of eternal summer. Honestly, with the drought and mild falls, winters and springs, it literally seemed like 3 long 12 month summers. Which brings up recollection of a family of 5 that were here for wine tasting, but two were very young and just slept thru it. The other , a precocious young girl of 6 or so, was content to watch the wine tasting and listen to the conversation. Out of the corner of the room a little voice said, "Well if it looks like summer all the time, how do you know it is spring?" I smiled and answered her that in spring , birds start nesting, bees start coming around the flowering rosemary, and hawks start pairing up for the mating season.

Now, one year later, watching the miserable damp, wet fog roll in....and then stay...I started thinking, what if anything, reminds me of spring? So, wandering around the vineyard, I came up with a few obvious answers.

  The long 8 foot canes that had been whipping back and forth in the foggy winds, have become quiescent. Now they are still as stones, for the pruned spurs are now only 2 inches in height, and even the omnipresent wind swept fog does not make these vines move an inch. It is as if, with all the wind and fog, the vineyard itself has become tranquil and calm. THAT is spring. Prior to pruning the canes whipped around, almost like they were angry. Now, it is calm, even in the rolling fog and wind. The canes and vines are stock still. Definitely spring.
Next on the hints of spring list are the bright reddish fuchsia splotches in the shadow of the oak trees, where it is cool, damp and still. A few brave plants are in partial sun, but these beautiful red patches of spring are the flowers that belong in the mountain lilly family, known as pidicularis. These are not only beautiful reminders that spring is almost here but their description in the Mountain Wildflower book states that they grow only in mountain areas between 5000 and 7500 feet. Yet here they are at 1200 feet elevation, but obviously under the influence of a definitely mountain climate. It is because of these flowers that some years ago I realized in part why our wines were so special....because they are mountain Cabs, mountain Syrah and mountain Merlot. This is also borne out by the huge temperature splits we have day/nite, which many of you know are 70 degrees routinely but it is not uncommon for a 112 degree day to be followed by a 32 degree night. It is stresses such as these that help make Cerro Prieto such a spectacular place in which to grow massive Bordeauxs, and Syrahs.
Here is a splash of red partly in sun, but nowhere near as iridescent as those in more shaded areas.
Not far away is another splash of red in the shade and those are shown below. Note the general appearance of the well known Indian Paintbrushes , the bright orange flowers along most hiways in the SW United States. Tall brite flowers radiating out from a central stem, yet with a leaf that looks like it could be in the fern family. But no, this is Pidicularis, in full bloom.
Once up close it is spectacular to see these brilliantly reddish fuchsia flowers growing unattended, just as nature wished, wild, beautiful and unafraid. You can see the leaf that imitates a fern, but nonetheless, Pidicularis is in the mountain lilly family. It loves the hi highs and the low lows. This is it's home, here, even tho it thinks it is at 6500 feet elevation. The vineyard weather is like the hot days and frigid nites in Vail in June. Only difference is we can generate that huge temperature split at 1200 feet, not 5000-7500. And this too, is spring.
Without looking too hard or taking many steps, again there is evidence that spring is near, when tonite's salad is growing everywhere, including in our front yard. It is growing just ten feet from Pidicularis and is commonly known as Miner's lettuce, great this time of year and especially with the fog to keep it nice and juicy. The leaves melt in your mouth yet still have a tiny crunch when you bite down. Later in the year, Miner's lettuce is still growing, but if you want the good , tasty, crunchy variety, you want to eat Miner's lettuce in the early spring. As noted, when this goes great in salads, you know it is spring.
Mainly on the North face of mountainsides, are found masses of wild sweet peas. We love them in the vineyard rows because when the wither and go dormant, they return to the soil. While living, they are Nitrogen, they are little manufacturers of Nitrogen, which is great for our soils...especially our soils, which in many places is just 2 inches of dust overlying solid limestone. I am delighted to see wild sweet peas wherever they may be, because I know that portion of soil will get some naturally made Nitrogen, thus enriching the soil. Once they grow old and die there is no more Nitrogen fixing going on. So we let them live as long as they can.
Moving more in a northerly direction, before long we run into the bane of many people's existence, poison oak. When you see a plant that has 3 shiny leaves with rounded off edges, and if you look closely and see a bunch more of it, you have found the dependable harbinger of spring, the dermatologist's annuity policy, poison oak. Like the old saying goes, "Leaves of 3, let them be". By the time these bushes, vines, or plants are nice and shiny, you can give yourself a dandy case of poison oak, should you pick any. You KNOW spring is here when wherever you go in the forests around here, (and some in the vineyard too), you can find these healthy specimens of poison oak , made horribly uncomfortable by the oil on their shiny leaves and stems, urushiol.
Heading back in the direction of home, which overlooks the vineyard, again in shady areas on the N face of the mountain sides are the beautiful wild onions and wild garlic. Sometimes I get them confused, as both can have a beautiful blue flower on a long stem with huge wide leaves at the base. Each plant may have one or some many of the stalks with the peri-winkle blue flowers. If in doubt and taking some home for salad, you merely pick up the stem and when it breaks off, you smell the base. Wild onions are a bit esoteric in smell, but wild garlic you don't need to pick to know. The entire area around the plant reeks of garlic.
If by now you are not convinced that despite the early morning and evenings rolling fogs and cold, wet , damp, weather, that it is spring, one has to do no more than look outside our living room windows to the West. To the south there is a massive, steep 400 foot dropoff, but to the West from the living room, one can see that the N and W side  of the living room is about 2 feet below ground level. If we open a window, we are touching the "front yard" which is just a riotous confusion of colors, and plants, wild onion, wild garlic, Miner's lettuce, and massive clumps of orange and yellow calendulas, some with red centers, some with black centers, and some the centers are the same color as the flower, either orange or yellow. It is delightful to sit in the living room looking W and see that springtime is here because of the profusion of yellow and orange thruout the entire "front yard"...which has been left to nature to seed. Yes, it is springtime, despite the nasty cold , damp, and wet mornings and evenings.
On another note and a FAQ, or frequently asked question, is the question of "when do you open your wines when you have company coming over? Is it an hour before, 20 minutes, or what?" I have answered this before in many ways depending on how the question is asked. But basically, our big reds need to be served at room temperature, but also need to be aerated. Now, from experimenting, I have found the Big Reds,(Cab, Merlot, Syrah) to need about 6 hours to "open up". By any standards that is way too long, and if put out at 56 degrees, in 6 hrs the wine will open up but it will be close to ruined from leaving it out so long and the temperature of the wine will be near 80 degrees or more. . Answer? Open a 56 degree bottle of our Paso Bordo (or other Big Red)) an hour before dinner time, and let it just sit there. If you pour it you will miss most of the bouquet, and it will be a mediocre wine at best.  If you really want a wonderful treat, use the Venturi aerator ($49 in most wine shops) as you pour wine into each glass. The wine opens up immediately, and if you don't believe it, try with and without aeration. Wa La. Question answered. Also if you have wine left, if you cork and cool the bottle after finishing all but say 2 glasses of it, with corking and cooling, it will be better on day 2 than day one. Usually most are better the third day than the second and sometimes the best day is day four. However, if you don't cork it our don't cool it, it will die on the kitchen counter when left overnite. That's it for now, but please submit any questions if you have them. Oh, and Spring IS here, with rolling , damp, nasty fog and all.
Enjoy your wines when the majority of you get them after shipping March 30. A couple dozen folks got theirs early due to the combinations they added to their shipments.

No comments:

Post a Comment