Old School Wine Making

Sunday’s book signing at Andis was a real delight. Andy and Janis, the owners of the winery, could not have been more gracious. They and their staff helped to make the event a real success.

After I had called it a day, Andy was nice enough to take me back into the barrel room and let me taste the 2010 Cabernet Franc that is currently aging in the “egg” a concrete container. It was amazing. The Cabernet Franc normally needs to age 4 years or more before it can be bottled. But aging it in the concrete egg seems to have sped up the process while keeping the brighter fruit characteristics. It is ready to bottle now.

The concrete vat keeps the wine at a more constant temperature and allows less air penetration than wood barrels. Wine used to be made in concrete and terra cotta containers for millenia before vintners started using wood, then steel and now plastic. This winery is experimenting with moving back to concrete. I would say that the experiment is a success.

I just read an article in La Cucina Italiana magazine about some Italian wine makers that are going back to making wines in terra cotta amphora, that are buried up to their necks in the ground. This is seriously “old school” wine making. They aren’t adding any yeasts to the grapes to accelerate the fermentation, and they aren’t filtering the wines at all. Basically, they are making wine the way it was made 1000+ years ago. The flavors, in good years, are said to be amazing.

These same Italian wine makers are also making white wines the way reds are made: letting the juice sit with the skins and stems for weeks, sometimes even fermenting the wines with the pulp. The white wines made this way are actually amber colored and have tannins like red wines. I’m dying to try one of these. There are rumors that an SF wine shop has some and I’m going to try and track down a bottle.

Tomorrow and Thursday, I’m selling/signing books at Ruby’s Cafe on Hollis in Emeryville from 11:30am to 2pm both days.

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About dslocicero

David is an author and architect living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He writes about wine, food and travel. His first book is Pour Me Another: An Opinionated Guide to Gold Country Wines, now one of the highest rated books about California Wines.