We picked two small fermentors’ worth of Pinot Noir from Cargasacchi-Jalama Vineyards near the coast this past Friday for Dragonette Cellars. This was from two different sections. The first fermentor was all clone 114 from the lowest vigor section of vineyard. The other came from a section that is a mix of 114, 115 and Mount Eden that is inter-planted.
A Friday afternoon message from Dragonette winemaker Brandon Sparks-Gillis on my phone detailed the winemaking method, but I am not certain if I believe it? Apparently virgins destemmed the grapes berry by berry, and then crushed the berries between their thighs. An interesting technique but somewhat labor-intensive?!
These Pinot Noir clones represent a mix of old and new, with the 114 and 115 being two of the fairly recently introduced Dijon clones that were selected in Morey-St.-Denis, between Gevrey-Chambertin and Vougeot in Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits by the French Ministry of Agriculture.
The Mount Eden, also known as the Martin Ray selection has a more storied and disputed history. Most people believe the plant material was brought to California by Paul Masson, circa the 1880s, and was a gift from his friend in Burgundy, Louis Latour. Other viticulturists in the Santa Cruz mountains believe the plant material originated in Vosne-Romanée and was brought to California soon after the Gold rush in 1852 by Pierre Pellier.
I am one of the few that believes the latter story because it was told to me by a crazed Santa Cruz Mountains winemaker with references to notes on deeds and wills found buried in walls. My belief was further strengthened by a personal incident with a ghost and my friend, winemaker Ed Kurtzman, at the Jesuit Sacred Heart Noviate winery in the nearby Los Gatos hills, where many grapevines we now use in California survived Prohibition. (But no one would believe that story … ?)
As we harvested the Dragonette Pinot Noir under the near-full moon we were treated to the spectacle of the moon setting a couple of hours before dawn. With the moonlight there was almost enough light to pick grapes, but as the moon set, despite the bright stars, the darkness descended like a blanket. Soon after, but before dawn, we were further indulged by the sight of Saturn and Venus rising in the east. Magical visions as we harvested fruit that will be transformed into wine.
We finished picking the Dragonette fruit in the dark and it was placed in the trailer in a cool, shaded location. I was also able to harvest a small amount of fruit for my own winemaking before we lost the crisp morning coolness and I headed to the winery for the day.
Brandon Sparks-gillis — Lompoc, CA, USA — October 5, 2009 11:47pm ET
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