September is a month of bounty in the Priorat. Fall is in the air, and the grape harvest is in full swing. The almonds have been harvested, the fall garden planted, and the cycles of the moon are on everyone's mind. The calçots are to be planted on the full moon, the fava beans need to wait until Pilar. Everything has its time. For me, it is a month of wild activity, collecting grape skins as they become available. No two vineyards are alike, and each variety gets its unique flavor from location and handling. Enologists are busy surveying their vineyards, waiting for the perfect moment to call the harvest. It is both art and science. And I am waiting in the wings, ready to grab a batch of skins and dip my fabrics.
If you think all red wine is "red", think again. From Portal del Priorat I gathered grape skins from Tros de Clos, and the variety of color extracted speaks to the complexities involved cultivating a vineyard. To the left was a bath of cariñera/garnatxa blend, to the right a syrah. If you ever have the great pleasure of tasting the wines of Alfredo Arribas, I hope you can add to the experience a flash of color extracted through a simple infusion of water and skins left in the sun to simmer.
From Bodegas Mas Alta I got a batch of merlot/syrah blend, and in twenty four hours the skins gave me this majestic violet. Their garnatxa white was pressed the following day, and yielded a buttery yellow, the perfect complement to it's dark companion. Diane Pitsch and Bixente Oçafrain are a dynamic duo.
Also this week Ficaria Vins harvested their white garnatxa for Matraketa, their fabulous Montsant white. I have to be patient for the dark grapes, as we move at a different pace here in La Figuera.
The macabeu from El Molar, harvested with our friend Fredi Torres, also yielded a buttery yellow, slightly brighter, leaning towards the green. Each soil, each grape, each village carries unique characteristics, one of the many extraordinary things about the Priorat. And we are just starting the vendimia!
Also harvested this week: wild hops, figs, cactus fruit, almonds. Here are the results. Enjoy and stay tuned!
This year Mother Nature was good to most of us. There were a few unfortunate vineyards that suffered dearly from a freak hailstorm in June, but this the game you play living in a micro climate zone. We have yet to plant vines on C'an Do, that will begin in spring 2015, but the almond trees we have been lovingly reviving were bursting with almonds. Kilos and kilos of almonds have occupied us for weeks, the clack clack clack of cane against almond trees resonating in the morning air. We have a bumper crop this year, enough to sell, and husks aplenty for color experiments.
The husks this year have a peachy rose tone, promising interesting color. After removing, I follow the standard routine of creating an infusion, husks placed in a glass jar and left in the sun to heat up. It is still quite hot in September, no further steps are needed to heat the water. Then it is a matter of a day or two, sometimes three, allowing the color to manifest in the bath, before experimenting with fabric soaks.I also make a bath with the hard shell. The colors are similar, but I am interested in extracting subtle distinctions.
Without a doubt, however, the central character in this months adventures is the grape. I am collecting skins from a variety of grapes, and working with various winemakers to catalog colors particular to their vineyards. This week saw the harvesting of the white grape, and the beginning of merlot and syrah. I have begun baths for the macabeu grape from the Monstant of Antoine Touton & Fredi Torres, harvested in El Molar, the white garnacha, and red syrah and merlot from Bodegas Mas Alta, and the white garnacha from Ficaria Vins. The baths are prepared the same day the skins become available, and will sit for a minimum of one to two days.
Stay tuned throughout the month as the vendimia gets going full steam to include the cariñera and red garnacha grapes, as well as the results from the variety of items I am experimenting with. I will be comparing colors from the same grape variety taken from different vineyards. Should be a fun, wild month!