I could see for miles and miles at the top of the Purisima Mountain Vineyard, owned and farmed by Steve Beckmen of Santa Barbara’s Beckmen Vineyards. But the “truth,” according to Beckmen, is not “out there,” but in the soil, the grapes, and in the resulting wine; no matter what you may think of the Biodynamic® practices they have been practicing full-on since 2006.
The Beckmens (Steve the vigneron, with his parents Tom and Judy) purchased their 365 acre mountain estate in the mid-section (unofficially called Ballard Canyon) of Santa Ynez Valley in 1996, just a couple of years after establishing their winery on a 20 acre vineyard parcel just over the hill, a couple of hairpin turns away. Vintages from the late ‘90s, produced from grapes from neighboring properties (like the prestigious Stolpman Vineyards) convinced the Beckmens that Syrah and Grenache – yielding ultra-deep and concentrated wines when grown in the shallow, sandy clay layered over mounds of calcareous rock, surfacing towards the tops of these hillsides — were the way to go with their own plantings.
The day after my Pichon Lalande dinner a neuroscientist came for lunch. I had soft-pedaled the appointment, not knowing if I would have time to sit down and taste, but when someone calls for a 1:00 reservation with the promise of interesting juice I let them earn credibility.
Considering the winking words of Clive Coates the night before about the “wines of the third world”, it is relevant that this year is the official celebration of 350 years of wine being made in South Africa.
I sat with them after they had had lunch and was introduced to Mark Solms, owner of Solms-Delta, who had left London in 2001 to return to his family farm in Franschoeck in the Western Cape and decided that the climate and soils would be best suited for Rhone varietals. He began by telling me about his study of ancient Greek and Roman techniques and how he had become intrigued by the Roman practice of “strangulation,” whereby the vine was literally twisted and choked to preserve acidity. This has by now become the slightly more modern practice of “dessication,” in which pliers are used to clamp onto the vine, crossing at ninety degree angles to trap acidity while the grapes desiccate on the vine, still ripening but losing over 40% of their liquid content between 2-7 weeks.
Spring has taken the hand of Tokyo, and the city is blushing. For a few brief days every spring, people of all ages, across all economic brackets, turn out in droves to revel under the cherry trees. For reasons buried deep in the Japanese psyche, the fleeting appearance of the cherry blossoms carries tremendous cultural significance. O-hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, represents both the celebration and mourning of beauty’s transience, concepts that run closely parallel to the drink-fuelled merriment and subsequent hangovers that tend to accompany these parties.
Collette wrote of France’s Jurançon: when I was a young girl, I was introduced to a passionate Prince, domineering and two-timing like all great seducers…
My lifelong affair has been with Domaine Tempier’s Bandol rouge, which began in the early 1980s, when I was first introduced to the French imports of Kermit Lynch. In the beginning, I did not understand the compulsion: it was a red wine that always seem to have a spirit – whether it was in the mysterious, earthy, scrubby, leathery notes that often seem to engulf the aromas of berry liqueurs in the nose, or the slightly sparkly, lively, lilting quality in the texture of the wine itself, almost belying a meatiness of tannin and dried grape skin flavor. Continue reading →