The vendimia is on. And though the grape harvest this year is down, in some cases fifty percent, wine makers are a tough lot, and will not be stopped. There is a phrase in castellano that I love, "es lo que hay", and to be sure, the amazing individuals I have met who make unique, artisan wines, embody this phrase, it's what there is. They don't take nature for granted, and work with what she offers.
And I work with what they offer, in this case the skins from their pressings.
Here's the process: the wine maker, in this case Bodega Sao del Coster and Ficaria Vins, presses the grapes and either discards the skins or calls me and says "hey, want some skins?". I then receive a lovely, fragrant batch of grape skins that have already been in the fermentation process. Next, add water.
It is nearly impossible to describe the refreshing, soothing sensation of plunging your arms, elbow deep, in to a vat of bubbling grapes. The sensory pleasures are magnified by a realization that this complex fruit, which provides us with that most pleasurable of liquids, wine, keeps working until you say stop. The winemaker makes it their task to say when to pull the plug. For my purposes, I just want to keep the skins around as long as they keep surprising me with color.
The vat of syrah grapes my friend Jaume Roca brought me from his syrah harvest is still percolating, weeks later. These are the grapes used for their Elia. My house smells like a wine cellar, and I LOVE IT! And on my terrace are grapes from Fredi Torres, which I culled from the rejects when I spent a day harvesting his cariñena for Planassos. Like a mad scientist, I dip my silks in to these aromatic baths, wait anywhere from hours to days to extract them. Rinse thoroughly, hang to dry.
I am so grateful to have found not only the Priorat but my fabulous friends in the Montsant DO. I am not a political person, per se. I don't distinguish between DO Priorat and DO Montsant. I have friends, they make wine, they give me skins, I extract color. I call this symbiotic relationship art, pure and simple, the confluence of craft and art. As the catalans would say, "que mes vols?", what more do you want?
The almond harvest, unlike the grapes, has been abundant this year. Lack of rain doesn't seem to have deterred our lovely trees. When we first bought our farm, the almond trees were sad from neglect. When we first saw the property, it was recommended that we simply pull the trees out and start fresh. Luckily that was advise we thought best not to follow. The following year we began to aggressively prune, giving the trees a new star. And this year we have been rewarded with a bounty. And there is nothing more rewarding than an abundant harvest,
The grapes this year are another matter. The unrelenting dry spell has seriously lessened the grape crop this year, and the harvest has seen some sad moments. But winemakers are a hearty bunch, and understand the vagaries of nature. And so my friends at Ficaria Vins keep working hard. They have a new white wine that is divine, and when I dropped by the bodega at harvest time, Jaume gave me the skins. Soaking in a large black tub, the skins began to ferment, and in to this fragrant bath went my silks. And, adapting the old saying, out came a silk purse from a grapes skin. Between the delicate citrus color of the grape and the terracota color of the almonds, two new colors to add to the Colores del Priorat palette.
Coming up, the bold and beautiful reds of the Priorat. There is simply nothing more beautiful. Even the sad and unusable grapes from one hundred year old vines gave me color. This miraculous plant works all year to bear its fruit, and I'll be dammed if it's going to waste. My daughter Violet and I picked the sad little clusters and indeed, they yielded a most delightful color.