Monday, December 26, 2011

Green Flame

I never cease to be fascinated with the way the silver-green boughs and leaves catch fire in the light and flicker in the wind. Olives trees are evergreens, and perhaps the original Christmas tree. And an ancient symbol of peace. That's why our favorite gift to friends and loved ones during the holiday season is oil from our own olives handpicked with care. Peace to all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Labor of Love

Sometimes I don't have the time or energy to post because I am so busy pruning the olive trees, managing the grapevines, tending the garden and in general holding back chaos. So here is a short You Tube video that gives a sense of the kind of energy it takes one man to restore and run a 5-acre farm.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Sense of Legacy

This shot is taken in the tiny piazza of our tiny village of Montisi. Sally, who took it, has pointed out the similarity in our hands.

The guy with the dangerously slung sickle blade looks a lot like our builder, Claudio Brandini (left), in the eyes. But you be the judge.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Fruits of My Labor

Besides the regular bounty harvested mid-November ...

There were these delicious heirloom tomatoes!

Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Joy of Pruning!

Ten minutes after the posting "Joy of Wire," the muffler fell off our ancient Fiat on the way to Sunday lunch with friends. I walked 10 feet away from the car to search in a freshly plowed field for something to tie it back up with temporarily, and found, I'm not kidding, bailing wire. Ten minutes later, we were on our way to lunch.
But pruning. I've just finished all the fruit trees on the property, about 40 of them, not counting our 92 olive trees. This is the last round. After this, I will no longer be restoring the suffering abandoned trees that had once been covered in blackberry vines and were being winched to the ground by the dreaded vitalba (summer clematis) vine. I will be maintaining them. No more cycles of trees exhausting themselves with pears, plums, peaches, walnuts, cherries and figs, then being fruitless for 2 or 3 years. No more broken branches overladen with too much tiny fruit. No more fear of falling as I harvest from trees that grew too tall and lanky as they struggled to break through the smothering canopy of vines. Now, I can go out with a small saw and a pair of Falco shears in my belt holster and climb into the tree and reach the limbs and fruit without fear of overreaching and blowing a rotator cuff. I do not have to carry a ladder around. The trees look right, now, like grown-up bonsai. All things considered, they will be happier next year than they have been in 20 years. Mission accomplished; the farm has been restored.
Speaking of pruning. These are the last prunes Sally preserved by the age-old and greenest of methods, air drying. Real prunes, from real reclaimed prune trees. Real tasty. In fact, the exclamation point at the end of this sentence doesn't do my reaction to tasting them justice!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Joy of Wire

It's called the contadino's friend. Baling wire. Trellising wire. There are a thousand uses and re-uses for it.

As I clear the farm I still have to be careful I don't stoop to reach into brambles or weeds and get an eye poked out. In kinky strands, curlicues, and abstract cattle brand-like shapes it lurks everywhere, holding split trees together, anchoring things to the ground, waiting to spring up like a booby trap and zap. I keep finding it. And saving it. And using it. I have re-trellised the vineyard almost entirely with the old wire I have found, splicing rusty lengths together because it looks better among the gnarly trunks of our 40-year-old vines than shiny new galvanized wire would.

To my eye it looks like the raw material for art. Perhaps this is what Calder saw in it too.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hot Times,Part IV

The plaster coat! Actually ours is stucco, the same breathable yellow stuff coating part of the house.

The dome's rosy glow is from a dusting of terra cotta dust I saved from cutting our sconces and outdoor pavements from the old roof tiles [pictures].

Have I said I am trying to use EVERYTHING on the property? The sill under the oven door is broken bits of hand made brick, the walls of leftover porotone (extruded terracotta brick) will be faced with broken brick and stone left over from construction and demolition of the old shack.

Did I say that the fuel will be grape vine and olive and fruit wood from all the clean up of the property? Did I say how much the sugars in these woods flavor the cooking? Stay tuned for the first "fire up."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hot Times, Part III

The insulation coat. It will hold in the heat. It's 4 inches thick. Clay, sawdust, planer shavings, wild oat straw, and the rest of the Thermite left over from the construction of the base. It's looking more and more like a mud igloo. Just the way it should.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Handmade Things

Fatto a mano. Italian for handmade.

Speaking of handcrafted things, we harvested the malvasia grapes, the first to ripen in our vineyard, and began to make our first hand-crafted white wine.

Wine, as I do it, is a handmade thing.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hot Times, Part II

One thing is certain, a forno is a handmade object.

On Saturday, Sally and I drove Nathan to Rome to catch his flight home just in time to make his connection in Philadelphia, just before Hurricane Irene hit. Unfortunately, that meant he and I didn't have time to pack the clay over the sand dome, or to get the oven to the point where he could bake the pizza he'd hope to make. That will have to wait until his next visit.

Since the oven wasn't going to build itself, I went to work. By foot, in big rubber boots, I mixed clay with sharp builders sand, then I packed it by hand over the wet sand dome Nathan and I had sculpted, to create the 4-inch-thick cupola that forms the oven body. This is the oven's thermal mass. Along with the fire brick floor, it will collects and hold the heat from the fire and radiate it back into the cooking food.

After it had dried for two days, I scooped all the sand out from under the hardening dome. To speed things up a bit, I lit a drying fire. If I'd wanted, I could have cooked pizza, but since the oven will work better with another coat of insulating clay, and will look better and last longer with a final coat of finishing plaster, I'll get things a little more finished before I throw that dinner party.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hot Times, Part I

It's been as hot as an oven here, so Sally's nephew, Nathan Silva, and I have been inspired to build a forno, Italian for pizza oven. They are also good for baking bread, roasting meats, cooking casseroles, and a host of other things including curdling yogurt and drying fruit, because they hold heat a long time and cool gradually after firing.

We started the process by clearing the area inside the old farmshack walls of leftovers from the housebuilding process, saving everything that could be reused in the oven, including this old poroton (extruded terracotta block), which we stacked into the walls of the base and reinforced with rebar.

On that we poured a 2-inch thick cement slab, creating the base for the oven floor and the ceiling of the wood storage area.

From a neighbor we obtained some good Tuscan clay, the kind all that terra cotta (cooked earth) tile, brick, and pottery is made from. It starts out gray but ends up red. After Nathan kneaded it with water to the right consistency by foot.

We added wine bottles and Thermolite (heat puffed clay nodules) to create the insulation base on which the oven floor will go.

When that dried, we used a layer of clay and sand to set the fire brick that is the actual pizza cooking surface.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Stuff Wine Lover's Dreams Are Made Of

I'm talking about grapes, of course. Vitus vinifera, the noble wine grape. Those of you who tuned in to the unfolding saga during our first growing season and vintage last year, are wondering how the vineyard is doing at this stage. You will remember my disastrous battle with the dreaded powdery mildew known to Italian winemakers as oidio. You will remember how we threw 80 to 90 percent of our grapes to the ground, rotten with blight, yet still managed to make some wine. Wine that is turning out to be better than I expected.

This year, there is oidio again. Turns out it is to be expected here in the micro-climate nooks and crannies where grapes grow best, places like our vineyard which has a perfect southern hillside exposure but is pinched between woods that cause the sun to hit it a bit late in the morning. The weather was strange in July, cooler than usual, but humid, which doesn't help. There is good news, however, we have only dropped about 20-30 percent of the crop so far, just about what I'd want to cull to increase the quality of the bunches on the heavy bearing vines anyway. Even better news is, veraison has begun and the grapes are turning red. This is good because the change in grape chemistry at this stage tends to keep the oidio away. I have sprayed the vineyard with copper sulfate (approved organic) for the last time this season. Unfortunately, about 30 minutes after I finished spraying, a thunderstorm drenched the vines. Apparently, enough of that spray stuck and is doing it's job. The grapes are looking good. The weather has improved. Sunny and dry. Cool nights. We have about a month to go. And for now, as the ancient Romans used to say, it's in the laps of the gods.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Feral Cats

When I first met Giovanni, our neighbor farmer, four years ago, he told me there was a feral cat living in the old farm shack on our property. He advised me to feed it occasionally because it kept the vermin away. I've left it food for the last four years and caught glimpses of it now and then -- a beautiful tiger-striped silver-gray female with an almost oriental face.

This year when I returned to Tana Lepre, she did not show up, but this cat did. I am sure it is one of that older cat's kittens, Three years ago, I was walking down from the olive grove when I heard a strange sound from the bole of a hollow tree where the feral cat had given birth. She was presumably off hunting, when a tiny kitten had climbed out of the bole and fallen down the 4-foot earthen bank from which the tree juts. I picked the tiny thing up and put it back in the bole. There were two other kittens in there mewing away. Two were silver like their mother. One was a "quilty cat," which is what Sally and I call the ubiquitous patchwork feral cats of Tuscany.

Like mother like daughter ... except this cat is much less aloof, probably because she showed up as an adolescent. She has two ways of speaking, meowing and hissing. Mostly she meows, but she sometimes hisses at me when she's hungry. She especially seems to like the sound of Sally and me talking. It's taken 3 months for her to inch closer and not run away every time we move. She joins us for meals and gets all kinds of tasty snacks, including cat kibble. Lately, she's begun to eat right under us at the table, inside or out. And when she's still hungry after emptying her bowl, she tells me by running under me and rubbing my legs with her back and tail. I reach down and try to pet her sometimes as she eats, but she always starts and jumps. The first time I tried, she bolted into the woods, now she just pulls back and looks up at me like she's going to hiss.

This morning I woke up to find she had climbed up our roof, onto our balcony, come into our bedroom through our open french doors, and slept on the floor just below me. She still won't let us pet her but, like the fogs around here, she's creeping closer on little cat feet.

Her home is under our solar panels, which shelter her from sun and rain. The locals think it's funny when I call the panels a cat house in Italian. Here she is on "Cat-henge."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lettuce in July

Lettuce is a cool weather vegetable better suited to spring and fall than the blasting African heat of Tuscan summers. But I planted several varieties in the partial shade of the prune and fig trees lining our orto (kitchen garden) and we are still eating them. Like most things fresh from a garden, this lettuce is particularly sweet and "lettucy" tasting, not a hint of bitterness. Because enzymes start turning sugars and soft tissue to starch and cellulose the minute you pick ANYTHING, you can't get anything like this in ANY grocery store or market.

Coming soon: Corn, beets, tomatoes, melons...

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Farmer's Worst Nightmare

It's the leading cause of farm fatalities and it makes farming one of the three most dangerous occupations in the United States. It usually happens when your load shifts, or you misjudge the angle of a hillside or the stability of ground after rain. Sometimes the tractor just gets out of control. Sometimes it hits something it shouldn't. Worst of all is when it rolls over on you.

I was tilling the steeper part of the vineyard, on the slope Sally dubbed Stairmaster because of the burn we get in our butts when we ascend it, when I hit a root and the Bertolini flipped over, throwing me over the handlebars and smashing me into a row of grapevines. While it's true the Bertolini walking tractor has only two iron wheels, it qualifies as moderately heavy machinery nonetheless, especially when it lands on you. This picture hardly does the bruise justice, but what looks like the scar left from an angel wing removal, is the imprint of the handlebar that slammed me down.

Stupid, stupid, stupid is how I feel about the accident. And stupid is how I felt as I called out for help, hoping the kid running the whining diciespulietore (weed whacker) in the distance would eventually turn it off and hear me hollering. When he finally did, he came running to find me snarled in a vine trellis and unable to get the beast off my back. It took all his strength to get it off me, and both of ours to turn it upright. The good news is I made a nice cushion for the tractor, so it was undamaged. I was lucky, I escaped with only a bruised torso. I shudder to think what would have happened if I'd caught a hand or foot in the tiller blades.

An honest admission: It was a very hot afternoon, and heat hampers Jack's ability to think clearly, making him rash and accident prone. Tuscan Resolution #3: Make no serious decisions of any kind in the heat, especially when it comes to heavy equipment.

This afternoon it is 100 degrees in Tuscany. I am driving nothing more than my laptop in front of a fan.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Frivolous Vintages

Today Sally and I are celebrating more than independence with the first ready wine of our bottled 2010 vintage. The rosato (rose`) which I've named Frivolo (Frivolous), because it was an afterthought, was meant to be a carefree and easy drinking summer thirst-quencher, but turned out better than I expected by a lot. It is fruity, lots of cherry and raspberry on the tongue and roses and violets on the nose. And not one hint of the dreaded oidio (powdery mildew)!!!! It is more complex than most rose's I've tasted, yet is refreshing and best served chilled like others in the genre. I'm thinking Tavel.

After we harvested the perfectly ripe grapes for the main crush, there were slightly less ripe clusters I didn't want to waste, so we made a second harvest to ferment a less alcoholic wine that I was thinking of bottling as a sparkling wine. Left on the skins for only 1 day, this wine should have been pinker, less red, but a few bunches of colorato (used only to add deeper color) got into the batch, hence an almost burgundian density that is quite pretty in the glass.

The sad part of the story is that most of the wine escaped down the drain when I bumped the 14 gallon demijohn it was fermenting in. The happy part is that a hunch paid off.

I did lay down 3 bottles with champagne corks and a tiny addition of sugar that will restart the fermentation and carbonate the wine naturally. If it works, you can bet I'll be making more pink Tuscan "bubbly" next year.

Happy Birthday America! I'm looking at you through rose' colored glasses!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fool Moon: Or Flock Amok

It was my first relaxing day off the farm since arriving in April. Sally and I had spent the whole afternoon in sybaritic splendor with publicist Sally Fischer, her husband Eliot and son Jack, eating, drinking, swimming, chatting at Il Falconiere, just below the ancient Etruscan city of Cortona. Then it was off to Il Molino for dinner. We were dipping our biscotti in vin santo when the kitchen staff rushed through the restaurant saying “something is strange with the moon.” Outside, we stood together in front of the old mill invoking Galileo and gazing up at an unexpected treat -- a total eclipse of the moon. As the first sliver of smoky moon began to re-silver, we bid our buona notes and Sally and I drove back to Tana Lepre to view the end of the eclipse from our balcony.
We never made it to the balcony.
At the stroke of midnight the celestial event was just ending as we drove up to find a note from the caretakers at Romitorio -- the villa perched at the top of our dell and our only other visible neighbor -- taped to our front door. “Something is wrong,” it said. “Your sheep have escaped. Now they are in our garden. Please come get them as soon as you can!”
Romitorio has recently become the property of Virgine Saverys, who runs Avignonesi, one of the biggest wine labels in Italy and the world. We hadn’t met yet, but I could just imagine the damage the munching sheep might be doing to her shrubbery, and the scene when we finally do met: “Oh! So you’re the one with the sheep!”
It is one thing to keep sheep penned inside an electric fence that tickles their noses when they touch it. It’s quite another to herd them. Especially when you’ve never herded anything before. Especially at night. Especially when your darned flashlight won’t work. Especially when you have no idea how to get a flock of anything to turn right or left, or to stop.
When we moved them from the lower field to the olive grove in broad daylight, Ulisse’s Albanese sheep wrangler, Simi, used a bucket full of grain to entice them along. I had no grain. But I did have two boxes of Fitness, a multigrain breakfast flake, in the pantry. As I drove the kilometer up to Romitorio, Sally dumped the Fitness into a bucket.
We found the sheep milling around by the villa’s front gate. Natalie, the caretaker, said they’d been walking down the white road. She was very sweet about it all. I wanted to kiss her for not letting them run all the way to Siena. But I had miles to go before I slept, so we moved ‘em up and headed 'em out.
With Sally driving the car as “pusher” and illuminating the way with the headlights, I walked the sheep down the road trying to interest them in the Fitness, which they couldn’t have cared less about. They were nervous as hell in the moonlight and suddenly they took off running. Thankfully, they follow roads like, well, sheep, which made chasing them somewhat easier than it could have been if they’d just decided to cut across the fields. Eventually outrunning them, I threw out my arms and blocked them. They turned back, started running, and when they got to Sally’s blockade at the junction, turned down our little country lane.
There were several more junctions to turn in this manner – them taking off, me outrunning them, me throwing out my arms and shimmying ugga-booga, them turning like scared sheep, them running up to the headlights like scared sheep, Sally opening the car door and shimmying ugga-booga, and them turning in the direction we wanted. One more turn to go.
This time they simply overshot the turn and charged up the steep hill of alfalfa behind our farm. I charged off after them, Sally’s fading voice became a squeak in the moonlight: “Where are you? Where’d you go?” “Go home!” I yelled. There was nothing more she could do.
After stumbling through deeply furrowed ground pocked with a mine field of calf-deep wild boar rooting holes, I found the flock halfway up the massive slope. Thank goodness the moon was full, the sky cloudless, and some of the sheep white. Thank goodness I didn’t bust an ankle. And now, I began to learn a fundamental law to the art of herding of sheep. You do not herd a flock of individuals., you influence a blob, a big wooly amoeba that oozes this way and that. The trick is to anticipate the direction it is about to ooze in, then try to steer the portion showing directional intent with your firm presence.
By about 2:00 a.m., after munching crop circles through Giovanni’s alfalfa, I half expected the flock to lie down and start chewing cud, and I’d resolved that I’d just sit down and spend the night wherever they stopped, just like a real pastore. But I’d gotten the hang of keeping the blob moving and finally managed to get them into our olive grove at the top of the hill.
I called out to Sally and she heard me. Probably half of Tuscany heard me. When she came up the hill carrying a hurricane lantern burning a candle, she looked like the French Lieutenant’s Woman, except that the lantern was from IKEA. The sheep and I were tired but we were closer than I’d actually hoped to be. But when I unhooked part of the fence to usher them through, they hugged the shade of an olive tree to stay out of the bright moonlight, and refused to budge. This is where thinking like a sheep came in handy.
The thing is: besides the plants they ceaselessly seek, sheep relate first and foremost to the butts of other sheep. If they see a wooly haunch receding, they all move almost automatically to close the distance. I'm sure there is even a mathematical formula for this: The anxiety of a sheep increasing in direct proportion to the distance between its nose and the rump of the next sheep. All I had to do to take advantage of this natural law, was grab the fleecy head of one of the biggest sheep, and walk it toward our destination. When the others saw its rump receding they followed, and with Sally flapping her arms at stragglers, I pulled the flock the last leg home.
After repairing the part of the fence mysteriously wide open (did someone do this as a joke?), and switching the electric fence back on, we went down to the house and drew a bath. Then, for the first time ever, I shuttered the bedroom windows against the bright light of the fool moon. Even then it was hard to sleep. Because I’d neglected to do a head count, I counted sheep over and over in my dreams, wondering if I’d gotten them all back, if little lambs really do eat ivy, and just what their lives would be like now that these lambs had tasted freedom.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Living Lawn Mowers

The loaner lambs from Podere Il Casale arrived last week. Fourteen, 6-month-old walking fertilizer factories. In one week they cleared the small field, now more a meadow, just below the house. Now they are up in the olive grove munching away and removing the fire hazard. I won’t have to pay to have the ground mowed or tilled this year, and this pleases me.

Unlike the claims of Hollywood western cowboys, sheep don’t eat everything down to nubs. They are very selective. And they aren’t noisy. OK, yeah, they’re a little stinky when they get wet in the rain, but that’s OK way out in the field.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wild Starts

Two posts ago, I said I like yeast and I meant it. Three months ago, I visited my good friends Eric Fischl and April Gornik at their Long Island home. Eric, ordinarily a renowned painter and founding curator of the American Now & Here show (which opened in Kansas City last month and will now travel around the US), had gotten into baking bread using wild homemade sourdough starter. The kind that has been used forever, by Romans, Frenchmen, and western pioneers, but has been replace in the last century by industrial yeast powder (the way real soup stock got replaced by boullion cubes). It’s also the gooey basis for bread therapy.

I must say the olive loaf Eric shared was divine. It was based on the recipe from the Tartine Bread Book, written by Chad Robertson of the famous bay area bakery/cafe, where Eric and April had eaten a meal and become inspired. As a belated Christmas gift, they gave me a copy.

A few weeks later, Sally and I were visiting our friends Michael Pollan and Judith Belzer at their Berkley, California home. Michael was baking bread to research a chapter on fermented foods for his next book-n-progress. It happened to be sourdough. It happened to be reminiscent of the Tartine inspired loaves Eric pulled from his oven. When I mentioned the book I’d just been given, he pulled a flour-coated copy from the counter and said that’s what he’d been using (with a little mentoring from the author himself.) That night we tasted a loaf of actual Tartine bread beside a fresh loaf of Michael’s. Sorry Tartine, I liked Michael’s a tad better (more sour, like what I grew up with).

I made my first sourdough bread, from starter, when I was 14 and growing up in Folsom, California. But I gave up fermenting wheat when I began fermenting grapes into wine and concocting savory main courses to go with the result. There’s only so much time in the world. And I could get all the fresh San Francisco sourdough I wanted at the time.

But this is a blog about Tuscany, where there is nothing bland except one thing: its bread. It is, the blandest bread in the world, leavened or un-. No salt. Certainly no wild sourdough starter. Even the air holes have more flavor than the dough. It’s virtue, and its claim to fame, is that it is the perfect neutral base (think wallpaper paste) for respectfully and unintrusively soaking up sauces. One thing it decidedly is not is sandwich bread.

I like sandwiches. A lot.

So, pulling my Christmas gift Tartine book from my bag when I got back to Tana Lepre a month ago, I started a batch of starter [pictured above]. It is something like I made in my California youth, but with good wild Tuscan yeasts and bacteria doing their job on the fine, but bland, Italian flour. For 3 weeks I “trained” my starter, teaching it to rise and deflate on schedule with its daily feeding of new flour. Then I went to work.

There is nothing like a travertine dining table as a workbench for shaping loaves.

Here is the result. Thumpin’ good crust, yeasty perfume, chewy texture. Now I’m going to go make that sandwich!

[all loafs by Jack]

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Beast

It kicks, bites, pulls, plows, balks, and handles like a mule. It takes all my upper body strength to start with a pull rope, but once that diesel is thumping, it can till all day without pause. It’s cantankerous on rough ground, a bear to turn corners, and can rip your arms off if you don’t pay attention. It’s the Italian invention that helped put Italian agriculture back on its feet after WWII. It’s the Bertolini walking tractor. I’ve always wanted one!

Actually, Ulisse loaned me his to prepare my garden soil, which I’m giving him half to use. This is our barter system. I give the land, water, attention to the crops, he plants what he wants on his half and harvests it when its ready. In return Sally and I get a melon and a tomato or two and the satisfaction of knowing our once defunct farm is producing even more in this world of dwindling resoursces and rampant population growth. It also just makes the place look tidier.

Before I tilled, I had to mow the tall grass with my trusty scythe. Here is what it looked like. before.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Sweet (And Slightly Yeasty) Taste of Patience

This glass of wine is murky because this is what was left after I spent the morning racking (siphoning) our wines from the 2010 vintage – our very first! I don’t mind tasting a little yeast when it tells me things about the wine (and tastes a little like bread/beer, which I also like). If the wine tastes good with the yeast, it should taste even better without it!

It took until noon to rack the 46 gallons of wine that have been sitting quietly in the dark underground garage since we left in late December. Of the four different cuvee, in increasing order of extraction and intensity, the rosato (rose’ juice left on skins only a few hours), salasso (juice strained without before being put in the press after 5 days), free run (what ran freely from the press when juice and skins were ladled in after 7 days fermenting), and press wine (what came out of the press when pressure was applied to that), all were siphoned off the lees (yeast sludge) in the bottoms of their demijohns and into new ones on the shelf. No mishaps this time! No broken demijohns! No lost wine!

When I started the process around 8:00 o’clock this morning, I was concerned about the rotten egg smells of sulfur from the salasso demijohn and alarmed to find that Alesio, the kid who looked after the wines during the winter, had poured paraffin oil, not sterile sulfite water, into the fermentation lock (which he also broke) and also on top of the wine. What a mess! I had to be extra diligent and sanitary.

On tasting samples from each of the four different wines – each an experiment to see just what our grapes, vinified using various ancient techniques, would give me – I found them interesting and delicious in their own ways. Most happily, there was no sign of the dreaded “horse blanket “or “wet dog” taint associated with the dreaded oidio plague or with the brett infecting my neighbor Giovanni’s wine (which he doesn’t seem to notice).

The rosato was fruity and fresh and will be refreshing during the summer heat! The others exhibited graduated intensities of red fruit from a palette of raspberry, cherry, strawberry plum, rose, violet and spice, with balancing hints of the slightly meaty-mushroomy savoriness I associate with umame (and find in my favorite Rhone wines). More Burgundy/Beaujolais styled, rather than Bourdeax-Rhone, these wines should age nicely in the short run. And though this year I don’t think I will age any of them on wood, they should drink nicely for the next 4 or 5 years when bottled, with food and without it.

Encouraged so far, I may go for a “big red” this year.