“You’re so lucky that you decided early on that you wanted to be a winemaker.”
I get that a lot, from friends who know me well in addition to strangers who always seem to be somewhat surprised to see a young woman pouring her wine across the tasting table.
I suppose I was lucky. I entered UC Davis at least 85% sure that I wanted to be a winemaker but knew enough about agriculture (it’s not a glamorous life, friends) to know I should work a Harvest before I fully committed. I squished my first grape at Monterey County’s Chalone Vineyard as a teenager and, sticky hands and bee stings and late nights not withstanding, fell in love forever.
Few know that my love affair with grapes and wine started even earlier than that.
Growing up in a little beach town just south of Santa Barbara, my folks and their friends were into the burgeoning Santa Ynez Valley wine scene. My sister and I were exposed to most of the local tasting rooms and at weekend dinner parties we saw on the table and, most importantly, got to smell in the glass the produce of our neighbor wineries over the hill.
I’ll never forget my first real “wine” memory. My best friend’s dad handed me his glass of Daniel Gehrs Chenin Blanc to smell and my first thought, beyond the visual beauty of the grassy-gold liquid shimmering in the glass was, “Wait- how did they get that grapefruit in there?” I knew enough about wine to know Chenin Blanc was a kind of grape and I had no idea what kind of crazy magic could transform the juice of one fruit into something that smelled completely like another.
In my junior high chemistry class I was just beginning to understand that many plants have aroma compounds to attract pollinators and, as it happens, curious noses. The roses, lavender and lemon verbena I loved so much in my herb garden smelled that way because they had volatile (i.e. smell-able) chemical compounds in the petals which wafted their way up to my nose, over the olfactory bulb and in turn triggered pleasurable sensations in my brain. Sniff…..aaahhhh…..
So here’s to three years as a wine blog and many more years as the Girl and the Grape, connecting the sensory dots between plants and pleasure. I love what I do, from the product to the places to the people. Many thanks to all of you who have been loyal readers and welcome to those of you who are new here. I’ll continue to write about “Winemaking, Life and ‘the Dirt’” and share a little about what makes wine and winemaking so fabulous, frustrating and at the end of the day, fascinating. I guess I just can’t stop chasing that crazy magic.
Alison Crowe is a Napa-based winemaker (garnetvineyards.com, popcorncellars.com, picketfencevineyards.com) author and blogger. She published The WineMaker’s Answer Book in 2007 and in 2014 won “Best New Wine Blog” at the Wine Blog Awards. She and her husband, photographer and wine educator, Chris Purdy, live on a small piece of property just west of downtown where they take care of four (going on five) doves, one rabbit, one dog, two cats, and grow herbs, vegetables, hops and two little boys.
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