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Posts by Meghan

Bob’s Your Uncle

We are currently in the thick of the vintage, familiar territory for us after 3 previous harvests. We have become accustomed to the winemaking techniques that set Australia apart from other wine regions and have even picked up some new Aussie phrases such as, “Bob’s your Uncle” which we are still trying to decipher the meaning of. As far as we can tell it’s something equivalent to, “oh well, that’s the way it goes”, but even after asking, we’re still not 100% positive.

We are excited to be working with some different varietals this time around, including some white wines and fortified wines. For those new to wine, one of the big differences between white and red wines is that white wines are pressed immediately, prior to fermentation, and red wines are left to ferment on their skins in order to exptract color and tannin. Our first few weeks of crushing consisted purely of white varietals including Chardonnay, Semillon and Reisling. When these wines started fermenting, the tank farm was transformed into an olfactory play land , filled with the amazing aromas of tropical fruit and blossoming flowers.

We now have the addition of some red varietals including Shiraz (Barossa’s signature grape), Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This harvest is expected to be one of the earliest and shortest on account of the hot, dry conditions. Grape counts are down throughout the Barossa but the quality remains high. When the Grenache comes in, it usually signifies the end of the harvest. We’re hoping not to see those grapes for a while longer!

Here is a mash up of pictures from our last few weeks. Cheers!

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If you are in the area, here is a line up of wineries we’ve recently enjoyed tasting at:

Yalumba: Oldest family owned winery in the Barossa. They do everything onsite, even make some of their own barrels! Beautiful grounds and some really nice bottles! Probably our all around favorite tasting in the area. We even walked in on the filming of the next season of Master Chef Professionals Australia!

TeAro Estate: Small family owned operation. Gorgeous little tasting room. We enjoyed their Grenaches and their hospitality.

Two Hands: They enjoy a loyal following in the States and it’s easy to see why. Not a bad bottle in the line up. If you are itching to see what the big, kick-you-in-the-teeth Australian Shiraz’s are all about, you can find those here as well as a mix of milder versions. Your tasting fee is donated to charity.

Torbreck: Really nice wines. Some of our favorite wines next to Yalumba. In the affordable price range we liked The Steading, a GSM or Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro blend. We would know it in the States as Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.

Shaw & Smith: The tasting here comes with a $15 fee (most in the area are free or applied to a purchase) and a pairing of local cheeses. We enjoyed both the cheeses and the wines. We went home with a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc.

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Talking Pictures

You know the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? Well for this blog I thought we would let the pictures do the talking. We have been in Australia since the 1st of January. During that time we spent a week in Sydney, three days in Adelaide for an orientation with our visa sponsor Bibber, and we are now in the Barossa Valley where we have been working/playing for the past 2 weeks.

There is a strong sense of community in the Barossa and the wine and food culture here is fantastic. Other than a few bouts of intense heat and adjusting to driving on the left (left, LEFT, LEFT!!!), we really have no complaints. We are living in the heart of the Barossa, surrounded by wineries and cellar doors, a.k.a. tasting rooms.  It has provided us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in winemaking styles and tastes that are much different than what we previously experienced in Europe and South America.

That’s enough from me, time for some pictures. I hope you enjoy them. Cheers!

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Here are the places and spaces we enjoyed:

The Barossa Cheese Co. – Stop by for a cheese tasting. You won’t be disappointed. We are told the owner of this cute cheese shop used to be a winemaker. Sounds pretty genius to me.

The Lyndoch Lavender Farm and Cafe – Try the lavender ice cream and learn about the distillation process to extract lavender oil. Pretty interesting.

Artisan’s of Barossa – tasting room, they have a different small production winemaker pouring every weekend. We enjoyed Schwarz wines and the winemaker is a great dude too!

Taste Eden Valley – Stop here to try some of the wines from the Barossa’s higher elevation/cooler climate valley

Bethany Wines – So we might be a little biased, but the winery is located in an old quarry and the Schrapel family has been growing grapes here for over 150 years!

Casacarboni Italian cooking school & enoteca in Angaston – stop here for a glass of organic Italian or French wine, a small plate and a cooking class. The owners Fiona (Australian) and Matteo (Italian) are so friendly and amazing cooks! Everything is made from scratch!

Rockford Wines – Great little place to taste! Try the Rosè that’s not really a Rosè, Alicante Bouchet

Barossa Farmer’s Market – experience the best of the fresh, local bounty!

Cleland Wildlife Park – Can’t get much closer to the locals than this! Pet and feed animals unique to Australia. Awesome!

Sydney Opera House – Even the bad seats aren’t that bad. This is a bucket list addition for sure.

And We’re Back!

Well, we certainly have a lot of catching up to do! Internet at our winery in France was a bit “complicated” to say the least, so our blog was, for all intensive purposes, non-existent at the end of 2012.  Bordeaux was a great experience and it was really interesting to be able to contrast the masculinity of the Italian wines we had just helped to make, to the elegance of the French wines.  The highlight of our time in Bordeaux was most likely sitting in on a tasting with Michel Rolland and his winemakers while he sampled this year’s Le Bon Pasteur and Chateau Fontenil. What an impressive palate and talented spitter!

While in Bordeaux, we went with our friend and co-worker Dean, to a few bottle shops in St. Emillion where he taught us about Second Labels, a more economical way to taste wine produced by some of the better known Chateaux in France. The great thing about these Second Labels is that French Chateaux grow all of their fruit with the intention that it will be turned into wine for their First Label. They don’t have specific vineyards designated as inferior and therefore dedicated to a less expensive wine. So in some vintages you can purchase some pretty outstanding Second Labels if you know what you are looking for. In New World winemaking there are some wineries that also operate under this principle but for hundreds of years, Second Labels did not exist in France. Particular vintages and labels that are worth searching for include 2000, 2005, 2009 and 2010 and Croix de Beaucaillou, Carruades de Lafite, Lynch Bages Echo, Comtesse de Lalande, Les Forts de Latour, Pavillon Rouge de Château Margaux, Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild, or Le Clarence de Haut-Brion to name a few.

The wine shops in St. Emillion are like wine nerd heaven. They stock labels as far back as the 1800’s in layers of caverns under their store. These caverns, some of which date back to the 800’s, were old quarries whose white limestone was used to build the picturesque town. Now these quarries have been repurposed to serve as naturally climate controlled cellars. The owner of the bottle shop we visited was extremely knowledgeable about all of his wines and excited to give us a tour of his cellar. It takes a wine nerd to know one.

After Bordeaux we traveled through Paris, back to Italy to see two of our favorites, Summer and Fabrizio at Cascina Iuli, then to Switzerland, Slovenia and finally Greece. One thing all these places had in common was, not surprisingly, wine. Each of these countries had something to offer. A good Swiss wine with fondue is heavenly.  The Swiss have great wine, cheese and chocolate, what’s not to like? Slovenian wines are becoming more common in European and US wine shops and for good reason. The price/quality ratio of these unique wines is tough to beat. Check out some of the labels that Summer carries if you are curious, for the price you really can’t go wrong: www.indiewineries.com.

In Greece you have to search a little harder for a nice local bottle, but they do exist. While the “mom and pop” restaurants are out of this world when it comes to cuisine, in our experience, the wine list consists largely of boxed wines that are past their prime, if you can really even classify a boxed wine as having a prime. At the more mainstream restaurants you’ll find wait staff that can point you in the direction of a great local producer. We had a nice bottle for about 12 Euro with dinner. If you like wine, my best advice to you while traveling would be to try a local wine with local cuisine. It always pairs well.

Two weeks at home for the holidays and then we were back on the road. We were so eager to get started in Australia that we shaved a day off of 2012, literally, crossed the international dateline, and landed “Down Unda” on January 1. We have our Visa’s in hand and will be starting at family-owned, Bethany Wines next week. We’re excited to see what Australia has in store for us!

Cheers!

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Slow Food…

There are a number of things we love about Italy. The food for one is delicious. It’s not just what they eat, but how they eat. They take their lunches and dinners seriously. Food is to be enjoyed. Everyone sits down, enjoys multiple courses of fresh, homemade cuisine and there is no microwave, television or work e-mail cram session. No one is rushing you to finish and get back to work. No one feels pressure to prove to the boss that lunch is not as important as business because he’s sitting right next to you. It’s beautiful, it’s relaxing and it’s the norm.

The Piedmont region is where the Slow Food revolution started. It’s the anti-venom for fast food and it is becoming a global movement. They encourage commitment to the environment, community and food heritage. They are the original ‘Farm to Table’ that has become increasingly popular in the States. Fabrizio’s mother Mariuca, up until last year when his father passed away, ran a tiny restaurant a few doors down from the winery. It was a Slow Food restaurant and she received multiple awards for her cooking. So when she offered to show us how she makes her homemade ravioli we answered with an enthusiastic, “Si, per favore!” Of course, our Italian being what it is, we weren’t 100% sure what we had said yes to.

Mariuca makes everything by hand. She grinds the meat for the filling, makes her own dough for the noodles and picks most of the veggies and herbs out of her own backyard for the sauce. She doesn’t hunt but she knows the hunters that she buys her meat from. I love the idea of knowing exactly where your food is coming from and what is in it. No mystery meat or additives you can’t pronounce, what a novel idea!

The machine she uses to roll the dough and fill/press the ravioli together is about 100 years old and just amazing. Hopefully the pictures I took will do it justice.  Of course this process takes longer than tossing frozen ravioli in the microwave but it is a million times tastier and healthier when it’s fresh.

Do yourself a favor if you aren’t used to enjoying a sit down meal and make something from scratch, cook with a glass of wine and friends or family, tell everyone to forget their diet and schedule for the evening and enjoy the good food and good company. You’ll be glad you did. Here is one of my favorite Italian soup recipes from The Barefoot Contessa and a good place to start. Buon Appetito!

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Hunting the Elusive Funghi

Mushroom hunting is definitely my kind of hunting and here, in Piedmont, it is a competitive sport. No, I’m not kidding. Serious mushroom hunters wear camouflage, have special mushroom collecting baskets and wake up extra early in order to beat everyone else to the mushroom hot spots. We heard a number of stories from Summer, Fabrizio and their friends about their many mushroom hunting shenanigans and were dying to go. So on Saturday we woke up early, finished some crushing/destemming at the winery and headed to the forests of Alberola and Sassello to rustle up some funghi.

You have to purchase a license at a little sandwich shop in the town at the mouth of the forest in order to ‘hunt’ the mushroom. This is the place where you size up your competition over a focacia sandwich and an espresso, eavesdrop on people chatting about spots in the forest where their friend’s, uncle’s, daughter-in-law hit the funghi jackpot, and hope that no one notices the two American’s sitting in the corner because our kind is apparently prone to running excitedly when we find one mushroom, inadvertently crushing many others in our haste. This is also an amazing place for people watching. I wish I had pictures I could show you of some of the outfits but I didn’t think that would go over so well with the hunters. Just believe me when I say that some of these people are hardcore.

So after our sandwiches we were off to the forest. We were totally clueless and excited all at the same time. Within our first five minutes of searching, Fabrizio found a nice sized porcini mushroom. It was perfect, now we knew what we were looking for. Within 15 minutes I found 3 more porcini’s and my plan B in life, if my winemaking plan went bust. I quickly realized how this could become an addiction. Everything in the forest is the same color and the mushrooms aren’t easy to spot, so when you actually find one, you feel like you just hit the jackpot and are determined to find more.

We ended up with two baskets full of different varieties of mushrooms at the end of the day, which is apparently a pretty meager load (due to the lack of rain not our skill level, of course). We’ve heard stories of having so many mushrooms that you can’t fit the people back into the car. Matt and I only ended up finding 6 edible mushrooms between the two of us and Fabrizio found the rest. We were completely impressed by his 6th sense for finding mushrooms. That fact that he was able to spot some of these mushrooms was pretty unbelievable.

That evening we ended the day the way mushroom hunters should, by enjoyed two amazingly fresh mushroom salads with dinner and a magnum of Iuli Nino pinot noir. Perfecto!

Newest Addition to the Team

Meet Jim, the newest addition to the Iuli/Indie Wineries team. He’s a Lab, Setter mix and pushing the record for most photographed puppy on the face of the planet. His palate is limited to shoes, a toy pig and grass but he’s working hard to expand it. We all agree he’s a keeper.

Hittin’ the road!

It’s been about two months since our last post. During our time away we caught up with friends and family, attended a wedding in Canada, went to Washington for our anniversary to do some wine tasting, I got a new camera, we climbed two 14er’s in Colorado, traveled to Copenhagen to visit really good friends, visited post-apocolympic London, and hung out with another set of good friends in Ireland’s countryside. Now we are in Italy for the harvest in Piedmont and really excited to be back in action. We have a soft spot for Italy as we spent our honeymoon here and, let’s be honest, what’s not to like? The people are friendly, the food is out of this world and the wine is divine. Not to mention the beautiful countryside and rich history.

We are working at a small organic winery called Iuli in Montaldo di Cerrina, Italy. I am in love with this winery already and we’ve only been here for 5 days. When Matt and I open a winery, Iuli is what I want to model it after. The winemaker Fabrizio Iuli and his fiancé Summer Wolff, founder of Indie Wineries, are so passionate about what they are doing. They are supporting the small farmer and farming organically not because it’s en vogue, but because it’s what they truly believe in.

Working at this winery will be a much different experience than our time spent in Chile at Lapostolle. Because it’s a smaller scale production, we will have the opportunity to be involved with everything from picking the grapes, to cellar work, to bottling wine from past vintages. Here Fabrizio doesn’t use a laboratory to test when the wine has completed a specific stage of fermentation, he judges based on the taste. We will also be working directly with the winemaker, which is fortunate for us at this stage of our “wine education”.

If you are looking to try a new wine, check out Indie Wineries. Summer and her crew have a great philosophy and support unique, small production wine makers in the States and Europe. You are sure to get a bottle that someone poured their heart into, although I will say that they sell out quickly based on high quality and smaller quantity. Iuli is on the Indie Wineries list and we found it in Colorado at a great price. Look on the list of National Distributors on the Indie Wineries web page to see if your state carries these wines. Then call up your local wine shop and ask if they carry the distributor’s wines from your state (for example, in Colorado Indie Wines are distributed by Natural Wine Company) and if they don’t, ask them why not?

We are only going to be here for about 3 weeks before we head to Bordeaux for a harvest at a different winery. Even though our time here is short I have a feeling we will be leaving with a wealth of knowledge. We feel very fortunate to be doing what we love and to be learning by doing.

In future posts we will try to introduce you to some other winemakers in this region, tell you about our connection to Iuli and Indie Wineries and touch on organic farming. I’m also going to try to throw in a short tutorial with tips on packing light. I can’t say we’ve mastered this concept, but we’ve come a long way since our last trip. Salute!!

Winos crossing borders…

Yesterday was our final day of work at Lapostolle. We had an amazing experience and a fantastic initiation into the wine industry here that we won’t soon forget. After we said our farewells to all of our friends at work and had one last party with the roomies (thanks roomies!) we were off to Argentina early this morning via bus. The purpose of our trip was twofold: one, to visit Mendoza where Malbec reigns supreme and two, to avoid becoming illegal aliens. That’s right, we aren’t working in Chile any longer so our visas will expire today. We only really need to step foot over the border to be allowed back into the country but as long as we’re there, why not have some fun?

So we have a scenic 6 hour bus ride through the Andes to contemplate the rest of our stay in Chile and our next harvest. After an awesome discussion about living life to the fullest with our roommates Roberto, Alejandra and Evelyn last night, a trip to Peru for a hike up Machu Picchu is now definitely on our radar. I mean, we left our other jobs to do this, we had better make the most of it, right?

And our prospects for the harvest in Europe include an amazing winery in Bordeaux and possibly an early harvest in either northern Italy or Slovenia, which happens to be the motherland of my grandfather’s family. As I learned in my previous job, nothing is final until it’s on paper so we don’t consider anything 100% confirmed yet. However, as David Bowie put it (replace the ‘I’s with ‘we’s), “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” Enough said.

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Harvest Part Deux

It’s hard to believe the harvest is nearly over. Slowly but surely all the tanks (or cubas) are being drained of their juice, the grape skins are being pressed, and the wine is being moved into barrels for aging. The winery will soon be transformed from the controlled chaos that accompanies the fermentation process to a sleepy retirement community where wine goes to rest until bottling.

With one harvest under our belts we are now shifting our focus onto the northern hemisphere’s 2012 harvest. Following the harvest from North to South around the world isn’t a new idea. In fact, all six of our assistant winemaker roommates at the winery have worked harvests in at least one other country if not multiple. For Matt and I, coming into the game a bit later in our professional careers and without a formal wine education, gaining worldly knowledge of the wine industry becomes that much more important. As our good friend and winemaker/brand representative at Lapostolle, Diego Urra wisely said, “The world will be your classroom.”

We are focusing on wineries in France and Italy first and then considering Spain, Germany, Slovenia, Portugal, and a few other interesting wine areas close by. We are looking forward to the harvest wherever it might be! The possibilities are endless and very exciting to consider. It certainly feels as though the world is our oyster!

I’ve attached a video of Matt emptying a tank of grape skins for the press, a process called descubar. There is the lovely sound of a barrel being fitting in the background and a fan running over the tank so feel free to turn the sound off. You won’t miss much. Enjoy!

Descubar (finally, after a brief lesson in video conversion, here it is)

Biodynamics

Yesterday I went with my friend and co-worker Patricia to visit another winery named Emiliana just up the road from where we are living. Like Clos Apalta where we work, this vineyard is biodynamic, a widely accepted practice in Chile. Biodynamic viticulture takes organic to another level. From what I have come to understand, it is a principle that not only uses environmentally friendly practices such as composting, avoiding unnatural chemicals and pesticides, etc., but also follows celestial calendars for decisions like when to harvest. This is of course a very basic explanation of a complicated subject. Some wineries in the United States and Europe have been using these practices for years but overall in the wine industry I’ve been told, what might be seen as a “hippie movement” by some winemakers is being met with less resistance in Chile. I don’t know enough about the subject to form an opinion on it yet, but I don’t see any harm in treating the environment well and having less chemicals in my wine.

Winemaker Noelia of Emiliana was nice enough to show us around the property and explain some of their practices. The vineyards are gorgeous right now as it is Autumn and the countryside is a patchwork of yellows, oranges and reds. Noelia explained to us that they don’t spray chemicals to kill bugs because they find that everything has a balance. When you wipe out a population of one “pest” you find that inevitably you will have a sudden increase in the population of another critter that the first pest may have been keeping in check. So they have things like chickens that comb the fields for bugs. The chickens won’t wipe out the whole population but they help decrease numbers and simultaneously fertilize the vineyard. At Emiliana they also plant other vegetation the insects are attracted to near the vines. Noelia explained that if you give the insects somewhere else to go then they may not need to rely on the vines for sustenance. Next we were introduced to the Alpaca. These “woolly eaters” eat weeds and fertilize the vines. It all seems very tranquil and harmonious.

We also were given the opportunity to try a few of the wines. Like Clos Apalta, I thought the wines were very good. I don’t know how much of the taste is influenced by biodynamics but based on the result, I don’t think I would change anything. Our tour definitely inspired me to learn more about the viticultural aspect of the wine. After all, the terroir is where it all begins!

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