Friday, July 30, 2010

Terra Savia: Wine you have to experience

Sometimes we food writers and creators forget that not everyone knows the how and why. When I spoke with Yvonne over at Terra Savia, I realized that while people love wine, they may not always quite understand all the terms or why a winery makes a certain thing a particular way. Jim Milhone, Terra Savia's winemaker, was kind enough to fill in some blanks. Thanks, Jim!

Luna’s Kitchen Magic: Being successful with your olive trees, making olive oil and specialty honey, what made you want to branch out into wine as well?

JAM: Well it was a natural progression of products as well as good fortune. The land best suited for our olive mill was occupied by a mature organic vineyard and an experienced winemaker. (Sanel Valley Vineyards & Jim Milone) As Jurg and I discussed the possibilities of working together we found we shared similar philosophies about food, wine, agriculture and the environment. The rest as they say…….. is history.

LKM: What inspired you to choose the varietals you offer?

JAM: Those varieties were chosen and planted by my father and I years ago. Having made wine from this vineyard for over 30 years it became evident that these varieties made the best wine from this location. I am a firm believer in planting what makes the best wine. In the wine world like real estate it has always been location, location location.

LKM: are all of your grapes hand harvested?

JAM: Yes

LKM: On the website, you say your Blanc de Blanc is “Allowed to remain on the yeast in “Tirage” for 26 months”. Can you explain what that means?

JAM: In the traditional method of producing Champagne the wine is fermented in the same bottle that is delivered to the consumer. The sparkling wine gets its sparkle from that fermentation. After the fermentation is complete the now sparkling wine is aged in the bottle to add complexity and softness to the wine. This is the “Tirage” or laying down process. Generally the longer the better but it is the winemakers call as to when the wine is ready.

LKM: What difference does French Oak vs. a stainless steel barrel make in the wine?

JAM: Stainless steel is inert and imparts no flavor or aroma to the wine. If you want to reserve the pure profile of the grape it would be the recommended storage vessel. Oak on the other hand imparts various flavors and aromas depending on the type of oak, where it is grown, how the barrel is made, and the duration and condition of the wine in the barrel. This is a whole science in itself.

LKM: One of your Chardonnay’s is made in the French style while the other seems very California. Is there a story here?

JAM: My idea of winemaking is to produce varietal wines that are true extensions of the grape. Our no oak chardonnay is exactly that. This is what chardonnay taste like grown in my front yard (location, locaton etc). The barrel aged tradition started mainly in Western Europe. People used what they had available to them. In France it was oak. In other countries different type of aging vessels were used. The French style has become the benchmark for quality. Any winemaker who is making chardonnay is going to feel the urge to experiment…………….we are all a little bit “mad scientist”. And chardonnay lends itself to various styles of wine. So for diversity and the never ending “experiment” we have two style of chardonnay.

LKM: How did you choose which varietals to use in your Meritage?

JAM: The first decision is made over time as I mentioned above about choosing what grows best in this location. The final decision is made by tasting all the wines after vinification and deciding what combination makes the best wine.

LKM: where did the idea for the Hoplander come from?

JAM: Before I became involve in the Terra Savia project I decided to make a very idealistically produced Meritage. Holding back nothing and only bottling what I felt was excellent above the rest of the production. When I told Jurg about the project we again found common ground. It is not something that happens every vintage……………. But when it does it is worth the wait. The name is about my history…….. I am a fourth generation winegrower in Hopland.

LKM: why did you choose to go 100% Chardonnay for your Blanc de Blanc?

JAM: This is the traditional grape used for the “white of whites” or Blanc de blancs of Champagne. For us it is another opportunity to show what pure chardonnay from our big organic garden taste like.

Want more? Listen to my interview with Yvonne about olive oil and honey!

*Special thanks to Pecos and Jim for providing the photos!

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