Sunday, February 24, 2008

barrel tasting: mid-winter

Mid winter. We’re half-way there. The line of days and months in front of us seems long, but the sun has started to shift in the sky, and today it’s warm enough that the ice on the road has begun to melt, and the little stream that edges our property has started to run. We wile away a Sunday morning reading old garden books and marking on our map the Villa Lante and the Villa Gregoriana for field trips when we are away in Italy. We also think about ordering more apple trees for the orchard and grapevines for the vineyard to be planted when we return. Thoughts move to the hedge of peony we want to plant, the rose pergola, the hoop house, the work to be done on the potting shed. We think about when to schedule the bottling of the new wine. We stop ourselves. It’s not time yet to get carried away.

We can taste Spring even though we are still eating winter food. We sit down to a Sunday lunch of buckwheat polenta with a pork and pheasant ragu, rich and spicy, followed by a dish of braised radicchio. This is in keeping with the two feet of snow still sparkling on the ground. We think: We can at least do a barrel tasting of our wine fermenting in the pantry. We can get a hint of what’s to come.

There is a fine layer of whitish scum at the top of the Barbera demi-john, but in the wine glass it looks clear and doesn’t smell off in any way. In fact, it smells strongly of Granny Smith apples and the palate follows suit, surprising given that this is a red wine. This seems strange to me, but maybe this is typical of an old style Barbera: light, rustic, meant as an everyday wine or in a jug at a picnic in a field. The Nebbiolo, on the other hand, has pretentions. Already, its nose exhibits earth, and on the palate there are fresh violets and a lot of spice a the finish. We think this could be a really good wine.

Soon it will be time to inventory our bottles and prepare them. In May, when it is still cool, but warm enough to work easily with the wine outside, we’ll siphen our 60 plus bottles, then let them refine until the end of summer. The end of summer…..the molten gold of August, the heavy herbacious scents in the air, the last hurrah of a heatwave, all seem very far away.


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