Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The night before the work begins in earnest

Vendemmia in the morning, and we will begin at 6 am. Thank god my jetlag is gone and I feel almost human, minus the lingering cold: hopefully the thrice daily doses of wild oregano oil (thanks to Kalyna) will pay off and I will feel 100 percent in the morning. Here the mood is good, but a little anxious. I can only describe the feeling as a cross between Christmas Eve and the night before a Final exam. The vendemmia has to be the most stressful time for the winemaker all year. PJ said "I can rest when all the grapes are in barrel and fermentation is going.  Or finished..." Until then there are constant worries. Will the weather hold? Will the harvest produce enough wine? Will it produce too much? Will he have more than he can handle? (We went out yesterday and picked up another 10hL vat in case we have too much wine. Unfortunately it has a broken part and it is up in the air if we will be able to use it or not.) Will the vines be harvested fast enough? Will all the untested new equipment work as it should? A full years worth of work, sweat, and blood for one day. All of this for PJ involves so many factors that are out of his control. All one can do is cross the fingers and hope...
More tomorrow night, hopefully with tons of new pictures and great news of a smooth harvest and a wonderful new baby 2009 Brunello fermenting away happily.
A dopo

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Getting ready for the harvest and resting after the festa

Yesterday we received the laboratory results for the sugar, acidity and pH levels in the grapes and it looks like everything is good. PJ talked to his friend Jan from Pian dell Orino and he advised to wait until Wed. to allow the acidity to drop a little bit and to obtain a little bit more sugar. The equipment is all ready and in place, now it is just waiting.
Today is a lazy day; everyone slept in after being out at a festa in Buonconvento last night. Each neighborhood in the town makes different food and hosts an outside dinner with 4 courses and all the wine one can drink. Our host Guido (PJ and Kalyna's builder for the cellar) supplied the entertainment with a seemingly endless stream of Italian drinking songs. Everyone's favorite involved Guido calling out a month (Marzo, Settembre etc) and if you were born in the month that was called you had to drain your glass of wine to chants of "Bevilo, Bevilo, Bevilo... Aqua fa male, vino fa canta' ". Needless to say we had a good time, and no hangovers today, thanks to Italian vino.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A little background

I have been working with wine since I was 17 selling wine retail and wholesale on both the East and West coasts. Last year I left my job in California to participate in a three month long agricultural internship program outside of Siena on a 1200 acre diverse organic farm. I had a plane ticket home at the end of the internship, but fell in love with agriculture (and a beautiful woman) and felt the importance and satisfaction of helping to create products rather than simply consuming and selling them. I stayed another 6 months in Italy learning to prune grape vines and olive trees, bake bread, harvest vegetables etc.
I returned to Italy after being home for the summer to rejoin my friends at Casa Raia in Montalcino. This small organic Brunello producer is truly a family affair. The property is owned by Ludmilla Temerty, the mother in law of Pierre Jean Monnoyer, winemaker, and vineyard manager. His wife Kalyna, is active in the vineyard and cellar as well as vegetable garden and conserving room, when not looking after their cute as a button son Eliah. With another boy on the way for Kalyna and PJ, the Casa Raia family is expanding. This is the first vintage that PJ and Kalyna are producing in their own cellar; after almost a year of construction the new equipment is in and the barrels are ready to be filled with this years vintage...

P.S. Special thanks to Shelly Yerman for giving me the name for this blog over a couple glasses of wine during a great brainstorming session, and to Jason Bombaci for starting his blog first and allowing me to copy him (even his template!).
So all is well here in Montalcino, although it took over 24 hours to get here the weather and the view was well worth the wait. Growing conditions here have been almost perfect, PJ is speculating that the consorsio is going to declare the 2009 growing season 5 stars, I have heard other people comparing this vintage to the magnificent 1997 vintage. Of course we wont know what the wine is like until it is released in five years but the if the last few days are what it has been like all summer it very well could be one of the great vintages. Beautiful even daytime temps, full sun and cool but not cold nights. Yesterday was my first day of work and luckily I arrived before the harvest, and am feeling the excitement and the pressure building towards the day when the sugars in the grapes reach the right level. PJ received most of his equipment the week before I arrived, and we have been getting the machinery ready, testing it, and cleaning. The feeling here is calm, if only because we know that in less than a week the full storm of the harvest will be upon us. I spent over an hour stripped down to my underwear inside PJs new 30hl Taransaud botte (large barrels) powerwashing the insides with hot water trying to remove as much of the hard green tannin as possible. Things have been good so far, basically just running around making sure we have all the things that we need. More to come on Monday when we begin the harvest!