Select sommeliers and wine buyers from across the continent participated in Spring Mountain District’s annual four-day “Touch the Terroir” crush camp during the first week of October.
“You can read about mountain terroir in almost all wine magazines or books these days, but until you have actually experienced working a hillside vineyard, you can’t really appreciate what it’s like,” says Paul Skinner, noted Napa Valley terroir specialist.
“Spring Mountain’s terroir is so unique, which explains the special fruit that becomes big, rich, lush, intense, yet elegant wines. They are some of the best wines in the Napa Valley, in my opinion – because of the terroir.”
“Touch the Terroir” was created to educate passionate wine experts about the nuances of harvest and crush on Spring Mountain’s rugged hillside terrain; to learn to appreciate what’s different about the AVA’s terroir; and what it brings to SMD wines.
Seventeen SMD vineyards and wineries each provided hands-on work experience in all aspects of harvest: picking and crushing grapes, fermentation, punch-downs, barreling, etc. There’s currently a waiting list of participants for the 2008 program.
Luckily for those unable to attend the oversubscribed event, many of the wineries operate little known tasting rooms right off Spring Mountain Road to share their winemaking passion with customers able to locate them.
“My experience began with warm hospitality from a group (of future
friends) who all make wine,” said Park City, Utah, sommelier Josh Cowart. “Each moment and activity confirmed my first impression: the mountain helps, but the people make the wine great.”
“Our primary goal was to teach them about Spring Mountain terroir, but also to acquaint them with the entire SMD winemaking community,”
said co-chair Sheldon Richards. “SMD is mostly comprised of small owner/operators who are down-to-earth real individuals – you have to get to know them to appreciate their passion for this AVA and its wine.”
“Living with Spring Mountain residents during harvest was my favorite industry experience to date,” says Cory Conklin, a Wichita, Kansas, sommelier. “My relationships with winery owners, winemakers and industry professionals will not be forgotten.”
Of course, it’s not all work. Participants attended nightly wine harvest parties hosted by various SMD wineries, which shared their harvest traditions to create a truly memorable ending to each day.
“Harvest can be a lot of long, labor-intensive days, but sharing harvest parties with your neighbors and staff is really special,” said co-chair Diana Schweiger. “It’s a time to drink ice cold beer after a hard day’s work, to swap harvest and weather stories, and to taste each other’s wine – sharing the fruit of our combined passion. But, as winegrowers often say, sometimes it takes a case of beer to make a bottle of great wine!”