“California doesn’t have terroir. That’s just a marketing ploy to sell wine. Besides, you don’t taste real terroir until the vines are at lease 40 years old.”
This is what my classmate told me when I studied winemaking at U.C. Davis. Since he happened to be the 14th generation of a family that is known for its terroir-driven wines in the Rhone Valley of France, his response really stung me. It was at that moment that I became determined to know and show the truth of terroir in California. Was this all one big joke, or was there truth behind that claim that wine can and should taste like somewhere?
Twenty years later, I walked among vines that had neither trellis nor irrigation. The mix of white grape varieties resembled small trees. The ease with which one could move among them was startling after being confined to linear rows of high-tension trellis wires. I could feel my mind open as I moved diagonally, zigzagging my way in a giddy inspection of what I couldn’t believe still existed – a 50 year-old, un-trellised, mixed white vineyard that was organic and dry farmed in Napa. I needed to know. If terroir existed, it would live here.
The winemaking is simple and true; harvest at 6:00 am, press whole clusters, a native yeast ferment in barrel, stir the lees, rack clean and bottle. There is malolactic fermentation, no fining and no filtration. This is 100% pure from the barrel – one barrel.
You have to taste the wine – period. This wine speaks of a place in such a way that you can feel the dirt between your toes. I wouldn’t presume to tell you what you are going to taste. If you are reading my note, you are one of the few in the hand-picked group that will ever taste this wine.
“Proof” effectively ends the argument between an old friend and I. We are both older and wiser now. We wouldn’t argue like that anymore. However, it’s nice to be right sometimes….