I was certain this was going to be one of those experiences of a lifetime. You know, that special VIP behind the scenes look at how great wine is made. The owner of the San Luis Obispo county winery took a liking to us, so we thought, and invited us behind the tasting counter to the back room for our own private barrel tasting.
I had no idea the shock I was in for…not to mention the test of my good manners.
He tapped into a virgin barrel where I was sure some sort of vino-magic was taking place. I placed the glass to my lips and took a sip.
I looked at my husband, searching for the words. He just said “Wow.” He looked at me with pleading eyes, hoping I would be able to bypass my tendency for complete honesty and instead seek out some form of politeness for our new friend and host.
I looked into the host’s eyes and saw what I thought was eager anticipation for my compliments to his great wine making ability. “Well” he said, “What do you think?”
I struggled. This stuff was downright awful. How on earth was I going to tell him that he should put a “For Sale” sign in front of his new winery immediately before anybody tasted this poison!
He sensed my hesitation. Delighted in my uneasiness for just a little longer than what’s polite and then grinned from ear to ear. “Pretty awful, right?”
“That’s wine?” I asked.
“It will be…come over here and have a taste of what’s going to happen to it in the next few months.”
From there we proceeded to another barrel, then another as we tasted our way through the journey the grapes take from vine to table.
At the last barrel, he handed me the glass with obvious pride. “Okay,” he said, “Be honest…”
“Did he realize what he was asking?” I wondered. My husband fidgeted.
I took a taste. Then another, letting the wine settle on my tongue.
I looked at our host for a thoughtful moment.
He sensed my hesitation. His smile faded just a little bit.
I delighted in his uneasiness for just a little longer than what’s polite and then I grinned from ear to ear…
“Are you telling me that the first barrel we tasted, the one that was so awful, is going to become this sip of heaven?”
He smiled, my husband exhaled, and we all laughed.
He went on to explain all the science and chemistry and art that goes into choosing the best blend of grapes and then coaxing them to perfection. I listened with great interest at the process, but what struck me most is the pride he took in purchasing this small 10 acre plot near the home he had always known so he could continue the legacy started generations before him.
If you’re interested in the vine to table process, this is a wonderful video. While it’s not from the winery where we had our barrel tasting experience, it is from a place near and dear to our heart…the Sierra Foothills!
Naggiar Vineyards, featured in the video, is in Grass Valley which is just up the road off Hwy 49 in California where we once lived on our own little bit of country heaven. When we lived there, folks were just starting to plant grapes.
It’s exciting to see how some families have set roots, literally, and are building a legacy.