Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Home Ranch Perfume - I'd Know You in the Dark

The French invented the notion of terroir. Terroir is the "it-ness" of the place. The weather, the stuff that makes up the dirt, the direction of the line rows, the amount of sunlight the vineyard gets, the amount of wind are all aspects of the terroir of the vineyard. A more modern definition of the term would include the philosophy of the wine maker, the philosophy of the vineyard manager, the existence of other plants and animals, etc. as part of the whole of the site.

There are many who argue the existence or importance of this overarching site concept, but there are few who would argue that certain sites have something special about them. We believe that our Home Ranch Vineyard is just one of those special places.

We have done many tastings involving all of the Cabernets that we produce, and even when those tastings are done blind, it is impossible to miss the Cabernets produced from Home Ranch fruit. While these wines share a richness with Ghielmetti Vineyard Cabernet and a structure with Smith Ranch Cabernet, what they don't share with any other wine produced in the Livermore Valley is the exotic perfume of pepper and mint and menthol that one associates with the oil from wind-break trees.

As the winds blow in from San Francisco Bay each afternoon they come charging through the Livermore Valley from West to East. Right next door to our Home Ranch Vineyard is a stand of trees - pepper trees and eucalyptus trees - whose essential oils are blown on to the grape skins of the Cabernet that resides right next door. These essential oils become an essential part of all our Home Ranch wines. Being red wines, the skins of the grapes that make them are exceedingly important. There is no way to separate the oils from the trees from the skins of the grapes themselves. Consequently, these aromatic additions become part of the finished wines. In a true sense, the terroir of the Home Ranch Vineyard includes this perfume; a Home Ranch wine that did not have this note, however subtle, could not be said to be a true product of this particular site.

I have come to love and appreciate this quirk of location, this happy accident of arboreal fortune. For without this particular aspect of "it-ness," the Home Ranch would be a much diminished thing indeed.


Michael said...

And here I just thought the French were barking up a tree.

Steven Mirassou said...

What's interesting to me, Michael viz the notion of terroir is an implied sense that it imputes some level of "quality" to a site. I think all sites have terroir, by definition. All sites and all terroir are not equal, however. Again, by definition.