So, I passed the Sommelier Exam and officially have enough knowledge to order off of a restaurant menu without breaking out in a sweat. You can call me “baby somm”.
What is great about the world of wine is you are never finished learning. I was taught by 4 Master Sommeliers (all of which were in the documentary SOMM, if you haven’t seen it, get on it) and they made it very clear that you will never know everything about wine. Even the Masters are still students.
I love educating people on wine, and a tasting room is the perfect classroom. Where else in the world can you go and learn about something then get rewarded by getting to drink? Tasting rooms my friend. Tasting rooms are incredibly intimidating but we all want to teach you. You can learn immense amounts over a glass of wine, so ask away! I haven’t heard it all but here are some that I’ve been asked quite frequently.
Frequently Asked Wine Questions (as heard in a tasting room)
1. Q: Is wine vegan?
A: In LA, this questions pops up more than in other areas but it is not a silly question by any means. Most wine is NOT vegan. To filter the wine (make it clear by taking the particles out), many winemakers use elements that are not considered vegan. Thankfully, the internet is making it easier to locate vegan wines due to dietary restrictions, so google away!
2. Q: Do the vines die in the winter?
A: The vines do not die (see Lillie’s article). They are merely hibernating and gearing up for the cold. Their nutrients are pulled down to their roots to protect themselves from frost damage. In the spring, they soak up a little sun and get ready for a new harvest!
3. Q: Do you add the fruits, spices, herbs, etc. to the wine to give it the flavor on the tasting notes?
A: This question is my favorite because we don’t add a single thing. The grapes give these characteristics all by themselves. The winemaker can manipulate the fermentation process or add a yeast that brings out the wines characteristics more but those little babies do it all on their own.
4. Q: How many grapes are in a bottle of wine?
A:Typically 500-700 depending on the grape variety. Some grapes are smaller than others. If you really think about it, depending on the price of the bottle, some grapes can be $0.25 each! The oldest winery in France broke down their grape cost and it came to $10 a grape! That’s a $5,000 bottle!
5. Q: How do I hold the glass?
A: Many people forget that wine is a living and breathing being! The more air you give it, the more aromas and tannin breakdown. If you warm it up, it can lose some key characteristics and even fall off and go bad. Always hold the glass by the stem, the lower the better. Your body heat can warm up the glass and ruin your experience with the wine. Also, you look classy doing it.
Have a grape day!
IN THE VINEYARD
Happy New Year Wine Clubbers! We all here at MFW hope you had a lovely new year filled with our Sparkling Brut!
Our vineyard crew has started the process of pruning. To recap - our vines are in their dormancy stage (napping) so that they can have a smooth transition into flowering. Pruning happens every year beginning as early as December and as late as March. Pruning is key as this will set the tone for the rest of the growing year. If you prune incorrectly it’s possible to cut off life to the vine and your crop yields will be lower than expected.
Things to consider when pruning a grapevine are going to be based upon the grape varietal, how it was trained and weather conditions.
Grape Varietal/Training - some vines produce more yields than others based on the way their vines were first trained. What is she talking about you ask? Training is the system in which your vine grows and attaches to the wire. Two main training systems are Cane and Spur. Both require manually cutting back all of the vines prior growth to make room for the new growing season.
Cane pruning is common in cooler climates with less frost vulnerability where the trunk of the vine is responsible for growth. In Spur pruned vines, the stub on the arm of the vine is cut down to a certain number of nodes that best fit your winemaking program. The number of nodes will almost always equate to your number of grape clusters per spur. This is incredibly helpful in determining crop yields.
Weather Conditions - Vines are dormant and can withstand the cold climate however, rainfall and temperature have to be consistent in order to prune. If pruning is happening when temperatures drop below 5 degrees you open your vines up to frost damage and potential freezing. Obviously this does not apply to us here in Malibu but you want to make sure you’ve had consistent cooler temperatures for roughly 2 weeks before you prune. Check and check! In regards to rainfall, you don’t want it to be too damp as the vineyards get incredibly slippery and muddy that leave your crew overexerting their efforts.
I could go on for hours about the different training systems and the best protocol for pruning your grapevines. Viticulture is very complex yet simple once you find your groove.
Pruning season has started and will last 6 weeks or until all of our 69 acres have gotten their winter haircut!