The tasting was great fun. Many of the local wineries offer tastings, but generally they take place in a tasting room, albeit most are beautifully and tastefully decorated with interesting things to look at, and perhaps purchase. And Pride Mountain Vineyards was no different. Of course I was attracted to a mural with Haflingers pulling a wagon through the vineyards!
Like other tastings, this tasting also began in the tasting room. We had a dabble of Chardonnay while our guide gave us the history of the winery. We strolled into another room where we could see a map of the vineyard showing what grapes grow in each area of their property. This room also had a display of the types of soil found in the area. All of the soil is rocky, but the size of the rocks may be different. We learned that the vines appreciate the heat that reflects off of the rocks, so you won't see grass growing among the vines. The soil in most areas of the Pride vineyards has a bit more clay in it, which means the soil holds more moisture than some other soils. We proceeded outside walking past some vines. The grapes were beginning to turn a stunning deep purple, with only a few grapes in each cluster that were still green. This change of color that signals ripeness is called "véraison".
We walked to the entrance of the winery where the grapes begin their journey from field to barrel, to bottle and your glass! Pride Mountain Vineyards straddles the county line between Napa and Sonoma counties. The winery must keep the grapes grown in each county separate while being processed. Therefore, there are two crushing operations and two different sets of tanks. Once the wines are blended records are kept so the labels on the bottles can accurately reflect the percent of wine from each county.
|Harvest has not begun, but it is close. The sorting and crushing equipment on the Sonoma side of the property was being washed on our visit.|
While sipping the Merlot we learned about the cellars, which were dug into the mountain. The cellars are a series of tunnels and the temperature stays around 65°. We learned that the barrels come from France and can cost up to $2000 each. The barrel might have a "36" or a "48" burned on the end, which means the oak that was used to make the barrel was aged 36 or 48 months.
Once the oak is aged and the barrel is constructed, the interior is burned or charred. The amount of char influences the flavor of the wine. The "MT" on the barrel indicates a "medium" toast. If the char is heavier the barrel would be marked "MT+". After doing a bit of research online after our visit, I learned that "Troncais" indicates the forest from which the oak was harvested. Oak from this region is sought after as the tight grain promotes "*more finesse on the palate". "TH" means that the heads have been toasted as well. Each barrel is used three times and then sold. The flavoring from the Oak diminishes with each batch of wine.
As we walked among the barrels we could see that barrels came from different distributors in France, and we were told that the impact of barrels from each distributor is consistent. Thus, the vintner chooses specific barrels for specific effects. Each barrel is carefully marked with the contents. Pride Mountain Vineyards also processes grapes from other local wineries.
We stopped at another area and were treated to some wine straight from the barrel. I found it a bit harsher. It still has more time to go.
We enjoyed a few more tastes while in the cellars and exited with a panoramic view of rows of grapes stretching almost as far as one could see.
Then we made our way back to the tasting room and the tempting bottles of wine and other goodies, all with the Pride name. Of course we had to bring some home.... after all, that is our name on the bottle!!