Learning about the winemaker experience at wine clubs
Joining a wine club means getting the chance to talk to real winemakers about their work. The winemaker experience is not quite like any other. The process of growing grapes may have a lot of similarities to growing, say, tomatoes, but being a winemaker means knowing your produce will be judged more exactingly, and delighted in more thoroughly, than that of any tomato grower.
The winemaker learns the terroir of his or her vineyard — the precise microclimate of the area, the levels of sunlight and moisture that prevail at various points in the day and the temperature and rainfall most common at different points in the season. He or she then carefully matches the variety of grape to the terroir. Then comes the growing of the grapes, protecting them from bugs, weeds and mildew while pruning them to make them concentrate on producing fruit. The winemaker considers the weather at every stage of growth and what effect it is likely to have on the grapes. From time to time, he or she tastes a grape to see how close it is to being ready.
The busiest time of year, of course, is the harvest. In the best wineries, the grapes are hand-picked to ensure quality. Precisely what process is used to crush the grapes depends on whether the winemaker is trying to make red or white wine. There is also maintaining the wine barrels and bottling the wine.
The winemaker experience at a winery near St. Helena
Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, a 10-minute drive from downtown St. Helena, is a great place to learn about the winemaker experience. It holds tastings in its barrel caves, where visitors can sample current releases and library wines and learn about the process of making and storing the wine. Cave tastings are $65, but one tasting fee can be waived by joining their wine club or making a $100 purchase. Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards produces world-class wines at affordable prices. The vineyard is a 40-acre estate just south of Howell Mountain, and has been owned and operated by the Anderson family since 1983.
One wine you might want to try there is the 2008 Èloge. This dark ruby red blend was born of a turbulent year with a cold, dry early spring, a cool late spring and summer and a hot early fall, producing a wine both rare and excellent. The aroma carries the smell of black cherries, chocolate, cedar, cassis, leather, mocha and crushed rocks, with a distant hint of smoked meats. The wine has a rich flavor of chocolate-covered black cherries, currants and plums, with hints of toffee, mocha and spices.
Anderson’s wines are sold online and in five locations in Napa Valley, and many other locations nationwide. Order some today.