Friday, February 26, 2010

...to which I replied, "business IS pleasure!"

Take heart, those with the deep longing to experience Utah in a new way.  My lack of posts is only literary laziness and should not be misconstrued as a lack of forward motion.  ~Cut me some friggin slack, its bottling season!~ In fact, the wheels are moving at an ever quicker cadence.  In all honesty, that doesn't say too much because the wheels are pretty effing big.  The good news with big wheels is that once they get moving, physics tells us they're exponentially more difficult to bring them to rest (not to be confused with doing skids, wearing right through the front wheel of your HotWheels or Barbie Bigwheel all those years ago).
Like all dreams*, this dream* of Utah wine has shifted shape over the last few years.  It began, in the infancy of my red-dirt biking obsession years, with growing wine in and around the Moab area.  My palate shifted towards aromatic whites and I began to feel that Moab was a bit out of the climactic question for those varietals.  So I've pinpointed the perfect spot in Utah County for said varietals.  Problem is, taking on a planting project (sans l'argent dans le banque) has proven to be quite a beastly task, requiring upwards of 2.5 million to do it modestly, at a responsible economy of scale.  How do you pitch THAT to an angel investor?  Sign a couple checks, and in 6 years time we'll have 5,000 cases of Utah wine.  Sure, we'll be able to sell it!

 With the idea to begin at a more manageable size, the dream* has once more shifted, and is yet again Moab-shaped.

Two years ago, during my first Australian harvest with Cape Jaffa on the Limestone Coast of South Australia  (http://www.capejaffawines.com.au/), I learned from the owners of a tiny Utah winery that they were contemplating the sale of their property and brand.  Four vintages later and I'm actually in the right place to stop and think about this (brow furrowed, slippery smile, rubbing hands together).  It looks as if all (or most) is in place to turn the key and roll.  Permits, licenses, distributorship through the state, and an inventory that sells out every year.  Cash cow?  Gold mine?  Benchmark varietal expression? Um...no.  However, for what has been a Mom and Pop venture for a little over a decade, they've done well and they're still here.  Upon tasting the wines its clear there are, understandably, many mis-steps in both the vineyard and the winery.

Can these 5 acres be born again, starting with the vitality of the decomposed sandstone soil, to bear fruit with a distinct signature in bottle that is uniquely Moab, uniquely Utah? Might this be the cornerstone upon which to set the future of a new AVA?  Really, Evan...AVA?  Utah? 

I intend to find out and have scheduled a visit for the first week of April.  If the place isn't what I have in mind (after all, its been nearly 5 years since I've set foot on the property), and the business end of my trip falls flat, I may have to go back to the drawing board .  In that case I'll at least have the pleasure of giving some of the worlds sickest singletrack the business, if you know what I mean. Again, the wheels of Utah wine are turning...

Utah's potential for viticulture is mind-blowing.  What the land needs is young energy and vibrant passion, worldly wine knowledge and relevant experience.  I can almost swirl, smell, swish, and spit it.

*all this talk of "dreams" is making me thirsty.  U2 no me likey, but I do have a special affinity for well-executed Chardonnay.  http://www.jermann.it/products/pages/productsList.jsf

2 comments:

hache said...

Thanks for the comment at Palate Press. After reading through this blog entry I can't help but get a little excited, and curious.
I have been working on my next story which is going to talk about the potential rise of Riesling in the Rocky Mountains. Any thoughts?
David

Ruth said...

Oh boy, do I have thoughts?! I'm positive there are sites that would grow some top notch stuff. But as with any region pushing the viticultural envelope, there are a whole lot of sneaky variables...water availability being of primary concern. Regardless of the fact that Riesling is more cold hardy (budding later and less susceptible to winter-kill) than many vinifera varieties, the bookends of the growing season in high-altitude sites (if we're talking wasatch front, we're looking at 4250 feet, easy) are SCA-RY! Just because a site receives the proper heat-unit summation doesn't mean it won't get frosted at budbreak in spring or as you're waiting for your 'optimal' sugar/acid/flavour-ripeness leading up to harvest. This is when your trellising options, soil profile, aspect, ie, a south facing slope, and proximity to a moderating feature, ie. a lake or river comes in handy.
THEN! You make it through those bookends and produce some beautiful fruit...what style do you aim for? These kinds of sites would just BEG for drier versions to be crafted with the ripest years creating some spat/auslese-esque action. Botrytis will be all but nonexistent due to uber low humidity, so the market won't likely see any TBA fashioned wines.
Is the market in and around these regions ready for dryish riesling, one of the most industry-heralded, yet consumer-misunderstood (read: ignored) wines around?
For vinous inspiration, I would look to Pewsey Vale, Heggies, and High Eden Rieslings (all from Eden Valley, SA). Felton Road's Riesling offerings are stunning, as are Pyramid Valley's. (South Island, NZ) Neither are as high as Rocky MTN areas, but growing season truncation makes up for it. "Federspiel" (12%vol) and "Smaragd" (13%vol) versions of Austrian goodness are also what I would envision happening. (as if this wouldn't get the salivary glands going...http://www.crushwineco.com/archives/2009/01/prager_stockkultur_toni_bodenstein.html)
Anyway you look at it, the viticultural potential is there...not to mention the fact that, to my knowledge, very few people in the world are growing Riesling like this. Yet.

*look at me doing my best to bend us all away from the "Riesling is sweet wine, right?" mentality.
**I suppose I should mention the fact that Colorado is making some waves (waves in my mind, ripples to most) with their Rieslings. All too often, however, their sweetness hints at and only serves to overshadow what their dry wines could achieve.