Winemaking. Life. The Dirt. Alison Crowe is the Winemaker at Garnet Vineyards.

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The” Wine Text Interview”-a new way to talk to the wine consumer

 

Wilfreds Ali Pen Shot

Garnet Winemaker Alison Crowe
photo credit Wilfred Wong

Usually a winemaker is accustomed to being interviewed by a writer (my chosen term for journalists, bloggers, etc.- see more on that debate via Tom Wark) in person or over the phone.   They ask questions, you think about your responses and then answer, and then you email photos and a bio.  Sometimes (and sometimes not) an article with your quotes (sometimes edited, sometimes not) appears, and it gets published in print and/or online.  In my experience, email interviews are rare because most writers I’ve talked with want to get a sense of immediacy in a piece and email gives the interviewee “too much time to think” and the results often end up sounding too scripted.

It’s rare to be able to participate in what seems to be a new and pioneering way of talking to wine folks and I was thrilled to take part in a “Wine Text Interview” at wineconsumer.com.  Lead by Creative Director Sean Piper, the interview via text I did yesterday was fast paced, unscripted (typos by me and all) and spontaneous.

Checking out our Diamond Ranch anti-erosion set up before my 1:30 "wine text interview"

Checking out our Diamond Ranch anti-erosion set up before my 1:30 “wine text interview”

We had arranged the time just the day before and I didn’t know exactly where in my day I would be at 1:30 when Sean texted me.  If I had a break in the rain I was going to go check out how some of our Carneros and Sonoma Coast vineyards were faring in the recent heavy rain (no cover crop + lots of sudden rain = possibly erosion issues) and then head over to the winery to check on how our 2013 Pinots in barrel were doing. Sean didn’t give me any idea as to what he would ask or what we would chat about; I kind of liked it that way.

usa

Miguel and Alison respond to Sean’s request to “share a picture with a bottle of wine in the hands of a consumer or someone who helps you make the wine”. Miguel is part of the crack team of cellar operatives who made our recent bottling possible!

I was just diving into the stacks at 1:30 and was able to send him some “action shots” of my tasting set-up when he asked the first question about where I was and what I was doing.  From there I was asked stock questions like to describe what I do at Garnet, which wines we make and their price points, etc. Then there were some very unexpected questions which made me think.  One,  “Share a picture of a bottle of your wine in the hands of a consumer or someone who helps you at the winery” threw me for a loop as I scrambled to grab a bottle of our 2012 Rodgers Creek Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, which we had just bottled yesterday, and snap a picture of Miguel and I.

 

You can see the entire interview here.  It was a fun experience.  The “Wine Text Interview” retains the immediacy and spontaneity of a verbal interview and combines it with images and immediate share-ability.  It’s a little hard to get a full screen  view on the Facebook platform, so you have to click on Sean’s link on wineconsumer.com to read the whole story, but it’s a fun little narrative.

 

I think he’s the only one doing this format, and I look forward to more “Wine Text Interviews” from Sean and the Wineconsumer.com team.  I encourage my winemaking colleagues to participate in the game!

 

 

Alison Crowe is the Winemaker at Garnet Vineyards.  www.garnetvineyards.com @GarnetVineyards

Girl and The Grape: Top Blog Posts of 2013

Girl and the Grape hoists a glass of bubbles to all those who have visited and shared in  my first year of existence!  Happy 2014 everyone!

Girl and the Grape hoists a glass of bubbles to all those who have visited and shared in my first year of existence! Happy 2014 everyone!

Well, it’s almost January.  The stockings are down, the wrapping paper has been recycled and thank goodness that last stale bit of fruit cake has long been tossed out.  That means it’s time to break out the local bubbly (with a big plug for the Domaine Carneros wine club!) and have a nice think back on Garnet Vineyard’s first year as an official “Wine Blog” (or something  like that).

Many of you know that I’m a winemaker but also like to write.  I published The WineMaker’s Answer Book in 2007, write the long-standing “Wine Wizard” column for WineMaker Magazine and pen the occasional column for trade publications.  Basically, I just like to share about the wild and wacky but ever-fascinating world of winemaking, from a practitioner’s point of view.

I cover the "red wine headach" and sulfite issue in The WineMaker's Answer Book

I published a handy winemaking Q&A book in 2007

I started Girl and the Grape as a way for folks to peek under the hood a little bit, to see what I was up to at Garnet Vineyards and what I was thinking about during the wine making year.  The last thing I wanted to do was start another yawn-inducing “pretty winery picture” blog, indifferently updated once a quarter by the Marketing Intern.  Because I don’t have one of those (or even a “Marketing Department” per se) what you get at girlandthegrape.com is unfined and unfiltered, sometimes about current winemaking issues, sometimes about my vineyard dog Kona, but always about real things that real winemakers (or at least this real winemaker) think about.  The tagline “Winemaking, Life, the Dirt”  pretty much sums it up.

So according to those techno-geeky bloggy things like Google Analytics, as well as, more importantly, feedback from my winemaker friends and the bartenders at Oxbow, below are the five most popular blog posts from girlandthegrape.com.  Since I only started the blog in June, I’ve been so excited to welcome the hundreds (and then thousands) of visits and social media shares over the last six months.

Cheers to you all- I have so enjoyed sharing “Winemaking, life and the dirt” with you this year at Garnet Vineyards and look forward to a wonderful 2014!

 

1.  No Hangover Wine

-I dismantle, with the help of two professors from UC Davis, a questionable article which erroneously asserts that so-called “natural wine” can’t get you drunk.

2.  Vineyard Dogs

-A shout-out to my own Australian Shepherd Kona, as well as as a tribute to all great vineyard dogs out there.  (*warm fuzzies alert!*)

3.  Winemaker Confession:  I Don’t Wash My Grapes

-I spill it, sorry fellow winemakers.  We pick ‘em and we squish ‘em.  That’s non-interventionist, water-conserving all-natural winemaking.

4.  Winemaking Begins With People

-I share my most important winemaking truism,  and pay loving tribute to one of my Pinot Noir mentors, the late, great winemaker Don Blackburn.

5.  How Not to See Stars (the wrong way)

-I humbly submit tips and techniques for surviving a large public wine tasting event as I prepared for the Napa Valley Film Festival 2013.

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I wish you and yours a Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come hang out more often on www.facebook.com/garnetvineyards and @GarnetVineyards on Twitter.

Winemaker Confession: I Don’t Wash my Grapes (but neither does anyone else I know)

Sorting Syrah

Hands-on. Grapes the world over go from picking bin to fermenting bin with no washing step involved.

This last week there was a major internet flap when mom and blogger Claire Gross posted a blog on Babble.com that she bathed her three-month-old son Charlie maybe once every week or so.  “Yep, total confession time,” Claire writes.   ” I really don’t bathe my baby.”  This blog post prompted an online firestorm of negativity wherein parents around the globe heaped on criticism upon criticism, accusing her of neglecting her child at worst and losing valuable maternal  bonding time at best. In further media interviews after the story went viral Ms. Gross has revealed her pediatrician advised her that her second child’s delicate skin was drying out too much due to daily bathing so she scaled it down a notch and found a happy balance that worked for them.

So yes, total confession time.  I really don’t wash my grapes.  And well, neither does any winemaker I know or have worked with in the decade and a half I’ve been making wine.   This sometimes comes as a surprise to a public accustomed to salad spinners, special vegetable-washing soap and double and triple-washed and cellophane-bagged spinach in the supermarket.  On numerous occasions giving winery tours, I’ll grab a handful of grapes from the picking bins as my group of visitors watches the grapes poised over the destemmer.  I’ll pop a delicious Pinot Noir berry in my mouth and offer the cluster around, only to hear, “Oh…..don’t you wash them first?”

checking the grapes

Many winemakers feel the naturally-present yeast and bacteria cells from the vineyard are critical to their winemaking

Nope.  We don’t.

 

Nowhere in my winemaking education, formal or on-the-job, across the state of California and over two continents, was I shown that washing grapes before fermentation was necessary.

The reality is that “No human pathogen can survive in wine,” as one of my favorite UC Davis professors, Dr. Linda Bisson used to tell us in the first-year winemaking class.  Because of the high acidity (low pH) and high alcohol levels in a typical wine, no bacteria or virus that could infect a person (like a cold or flu bug, or even worse) can survive in that environment.  This is part of the reason why, for the ancient Romans, Greeks and many other societies, wine was used to help treat wounds and was considered a medicine.  Even though wine microbes like Lactobacilli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae are happy in that kind of harsh environment, bugs that live in the human body are not.

Winemakers also know what was sprayed (or in most cases, not sprayed, as grapes are a low-input crop compared to others) in the vineyard during the growing year.  In fact, residual fungicides or other chemicals disrupt a healthy fermentation, which is why winegrape growers are more limited than other fruit and vegetable growers in what they may use in a vineyard and why we ask our growers (or do it ourselves, if we are the grower) to provide meticulous records of anything applied.

Malbec in Argentina, hangin' in the breeze, collecting natural vineyard microbial flora

Malbec in Argentina, hangin’ in the breeze, collecting natural vineyard microbial flora

Are there sometimes mites, dust and bugs from the vineyard?  Sure.  Once I even spent an hour rescuing a dozen little green frogs from a bin of grapes as they went across the sorting table (no idea how they got there, must have been hanging out on the vine for some reason).  But most importantly, there are also valuable indigenous yeast and bacteria cells that can help contribute to a healthy and more interesting fermentation and eventually, wine. From Bordeaux to Burgundy, Modesto to Mendocino, grapes get picked, come into the winery, get crushed and become wine, without a grape-washing step involved*.

I really never gave it much thought before, but I suppose we could add grape-washing to our litany of winemaking steps.  Some might welcome it as a way to make squeaky-clean wine that they could market as “Triple Washed!”  Some would no doubt decry it as yet one more unnatural and non-traditional winemaking “intervention”.   It would undoubtedly be a waste of precious water and depending on residual levels, might dilute the wine.  Every day we are learning more and more about the microbial world within and around us and its valuable contribution to our health and well-being.  Why wash off microbes that might be beneficial in fermentation, or at least benign?  The dust that comes in on the grapes settles down to the bottom of the fermenter and gets racked off and left behind anyway.

Bryce Smilie

Baby Bryce, bathed once a week, happy to be part of the “Great Unwashed”.

To side with Claire Gross, I really don’t bathe my baby much either (Bryce is now almost eight months old).  He has dry skin and as per his pediatrician we find a once-a-week dunk works just fine for us, thanks very much. So here’s to the great unwashed!  Winemaking, like parenting, is an ancient, and yes sometimes dirty, art.

 

*If someone does wash their grapes first, contact me!  I’d be curious to do a follow-up blog post!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alison loves answering questions about the weird in wine and published the WineMaker’s Answer Book in 2007.  Interact with us at Garnetvineyards.com @GarnetVineyards and on Facebook!