Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Lately, I've been obsessed with this wine.  I dream of the effervescence and color of the Pinot Noir Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine of Richard Grant.  And the taste is amazing.  With a peachy pink shade, the wine is made in the traditional Methode Champenoise style.  But the one thing I love most about this wine is the history of the grapes.  Dr. Richard Grant, the winemaker, brought cuttings from the Wrotham Clone from southeast England and planted two acres in the Napa Valley.  It has been determined by scientist from Davis that the Wrotham Clone has exactly the same DNA as Pinot Noir.  The vine was found growing in the small village of Wrotham in Kent and was at least two hundred years old and was originally brought to England by the Romans two thousand years ago!  It retails for around $40.
I also have been dreaming about my childhood growing up in the Napa Valley.  I loved the old house we lived in at the time and spent hours exploring and playing in the Napa Creek.  One winter we watched as the waters rose and almost flooded our neighborhood.  We lived downstream of the old Christian Brothers Mont La Salle winery on Mt. Veeder which is now the home of the Hess Collection that I talked about in my previous wine entry.  That winter the end of a large redwood fermentation barrel floated down and was captured by myself and a few of my friends.  All spring and summer we had hours of fun using it as a raft.  If my memory serves me, it was about six to eight feet in diameter and about three to four inches thick, so it floated well if you kept the weight to the center.  As the summer came to an end, the creek would dry up and swimming holes became scarce and we would sometimes have to drag it to a new hole.  If I close my eyes I can still smell the bay and sycamore trees and the smell of the water as it gave way to pond scum and algae.  Eventually, there would be algae covered river rock everywhere in the creek bed.  That was also the summer we found the dead sheep carcass hanging from our rope swing at Devil's Gorge.  The gorge was formed at the junction where two creeks merged creating a mini Grand Canyon of the the sandstone.  The cliffs around the creek where about fifteen to twenty feet high and there were shallow caves with the remnants of old fires and sometimes the occasional pile of human feces.  But that summer someone had killed a sheep and hung the dirty and bloodied carcass on our rope swing we had tied to an old oak branch the summer before.  There was a brigade of about five or six of us.  Some were on the shore and two or three of us navigated the round raft.  As we approached the Gorge we saw the dead sheep swinging lazily.  There was a hush as we made our way slowly towards it.  I had seen and smelled small dead animals and plenty of frogs, but this was the largest dead thing I had ever seen.  The wool was matted with dried blood and dirt and it hung by one of the hind legs.  No one spoke a word.  We looked around the tops of the cliffs to see if we were being watched.  It felt like an evil warning of some kind.  One of the braver fellows in our motley crew, picked up a stick and poked at it.  It must have been fresh because no foul stench seemed to emanate from it.  Later when I read Lord of the Flies, the moment the boys discover the boar's head reminded me of that day at Devil's Gorge.  I'd like to say that we did the humane thing and took it down, but unfortunately being boys we continued the desecration.  We had floated a considerable distance downstream that day, so instead of dragging the barrel end back to my house, we hid it on the shore.  When we returned a few days later it was gone as was the sheep carcass.  The swing was still there, but the water was so low it would not have been any fun to swing into it, so we would just swing back and forth.  Pushing one another and spinning until we were dizzy and delirious. 

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