The science and technicality behind wine is a topic that truly draws me in and fascinates me, so when it came time to write about La Clarine Farm’s Piedi Grandi, I struggled to decide what to focus on. Should I get down in the dirt and talk about what it means that La Clarine has vineyards on volcanic soil? Should I discuss the history of Nebbiolo and how it came to be in California? Should I focus on the climate in Sierra Foothills that make it a fascinating place to grow Syrah, Mourvedre and Nebbiolo? As I researched I came across some thoughts from La Clarine Farm’s winemakers Hank and Caroline that were so ripe with beauty and feeling, it reminded me about another aspect of natural wine that I love: emotions.
The marvel of beauty and experience. The wonder of our world and our connectivity. One thing about natural wine that makes it so unique is that it is ALIVE! You can taste it, you can feel it. The terroir, the winemaker, the fruit, it’s all living and breathing inside this little bottle sitting in front of me. There’s so many facts I could delve into to write about this wine but all I really want to revel in is how it makes me feel. It’s nice when a wine has technical balance, length, intensity and complexity. It’s MARVELOUS when a wine takes you in its arms and sweeps you away, when it bursts forth upon your senses like a violet blooming in a fresh breeze, when a sip can leave you speechless. When you swirl the juice around your tongue and feel overcome with splendor, well, there is nothing else like it in the world! La Clarine Farm’s Piedi Grandi is one of those wines. It breathes soil, earth, rocks, lilies! It sings strawberries and mouth-watering bing cherries. It whispers life, care and emotions. If you’re like me, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in facts, figures, logic etc. It’s nice to be reminded that sometimes feeling and floating on existing is just as important. When a living wine, the product of a carefully stewarded ecological landscape, the fruit of a craft-persons emotions and care, takes your breath away, my advice? Let it leave you breathless.
Who Makes it: La Clarine Farms
What it is: Nebbiolo, Syrah, and Mourvedre
Where: Sierra Foothills, CA
From La Clarine Farm’s site:
I have come to see that terroir is not a completely independent, location-based phenomenon. It relies on the farmer/winemaker/vigneron being part of the equation. It is the person who steers the terroir towards an expression. This would help to explain why sometimes, when an estate changes hands, the wines are never the same as before. Or in Burgundy, where there can be multiple owners of one small vineyard. Why are the wines made by neighbors sometimes wildly different? If terroir is so site specific, so fixed, why does this happen?
It all started to remind me of a quantum field, in that the set of possibilities of a wine (from vineyard to bottle) is (perhaps) infinite. And it strikes me that these possibilities are indeed what we mean by terroir. Terroir (or the terroir-field) is not static and fixed. Rather, it is everything that can be. It relies on an interpretation by someone or something to manifest itself, much like a subatomic particle only has a position when someone is there to observe it. And like a particle, it could be in two different places (or have two different expressions) to two different observers.
Each terroir-field embodies this almost limitless set of possible outcomes. Each step in grape growing and in the cellar is a series of decisions which eliminate or restrict certain other possibilities. By choosing A, we may stop B or C from expressing itself. Or choosing A may emphasize other aspects. Our choices, pruning, trellising, vineyard layout, farming, picking, cellar procedures, etc., all serve to define one group of possible outcomes (what we would call its expression of terroir) while restricting others.
In essence, the farmer/winemaker/vigneron becomes the crucial link in allowing a vineyard, its grapes and the vintage to express itself. He or she allows a terroir to become explicit.
Seeing terroir in this way opens up so many possibilities to the farmer/winemaker/vigneron. We must, as winemakers, become aware of how our intentions and actions can support or detract from our primary goal – delicious wine. What is considered delicious is open to interpretation, too, but at least this view gets rid of the idea of a “correct” method of making a wine from a given vineyard. Now, all ideas can be explored. Some surprises may be found. New ways of thinking about wine can emerge.