Picking grapes with Tony Coturri in Texas

Above: The cowboy hat that Melvin Croaker gave me isn’t just for show. I can probably do more damage at computer keyboard than I can with pruning shears in the vineyards but this singing cowboy managed to fill a crate or two with Blanc du Bois in the Texas sun yesterday.

There are many mysteries in this big ol’ world and many of them leave me scratching my head. But one of the ones I find the hardest to fathom is why every single wine professional in central Texas doesn’t head down to Comal County to get a glimpse of natural winemaker Tony Coturri, who arrives promptly each year to harvest grapes and make wine with maverick winemaker Lewis Dickson of La Cruz de Comal winery. (For a recent and truly wonderful interview with Tony, please see this excellent post by my friend and blogging colleague and fellow Californian-Texan Amy Atwood. And for a profile of Lewis and his wines, please see this post I did for the 32 Days of Natural Wine.)

Above: No, that’s not Billy Gibbons, it’s Tony on “the Gator.”

It was a thrill for me and Tracie P to get to “rub shoulders” with Tony in the vineyards and the thought of getting to hang with him even got us out of bed on a Sunday morning at the crack of dawn (can you believe that?). Harvest of Lewis’s Blanc du Bois grapes began yesterday at daybreak in Comal County on the southern side of Canyon Lake (about an hour and half from our place in Austin).

cruz de comal

Above: Tony and Lewis destemming the Blanc du Bois harvest. From the quality and quantity of grapes, it appears that Cruz de Comal will have one of its best vintages of Blanc du Bois, which is used to make the winery’s Pétard Blanc, one of my favorites and white with remarkable aging potential.

In case you don’t already know Tony, he’s a leading Californian grape grower and winemaker and a pioneer of natural winemaking in the Golden State… AND he makes killer wines. I love what he said to Amy in the interview she did:

    The basic principles and procedures of my winemaking haven’t changed over the years. I have remained a believer in natural, and traditional and additive free winemaking. If anything, refining the natural process has been the change. As my understanding of the development of all aspects the vineyards through the use of organic and biodynamic practices deepens I realize that I’m not so much a “winemaker’ but a custodian of grapes. The wine is made in the vineyard. My job is to take care of it. The magic is in the vineyard not the winery.

O mamma, you’re speaking my language!

cruz de comal

Above: A little grape porn for ya’ll.

Tracie P and I are both a little sore from picking those grapes yesterday but we’re no worse for the wear. And what a good night sleep you get after a day of working in the vineyards in the sunshine and fresh air! Man, I can’t wait to taste that wine…

I’d rather trust a man who works with his hands,
He looks at you once, you know he understands,
Don’t need any shield,
When you’re out in the field.

—Peter Gabriel (can anyone name the tune? Thor, I’m counting on you!)

8 thoughts on “Picking grapes with Tony Coturri in Texas

  1. Isn’t that an awesome song? We need to listen to the Lamb together… Remember back in those days, when you would hang out with your friends, and listen to the whole sides of records without speaking a word…

  2. Jeremy:

    Thanks for helping. What’s to be the Petard Blanc is fermenting away nicely on it’s natural yeasts. It’s a beautiful thing to see those active fermentation locks. Most people don’t see the hard work that goes into all this so I appreciate not only your help but the “witnessing” of it. There’s lots more hard work from here to bottling. I’m excited about it. I’ve never made more than 22 cases of the Petard. Could have twice that this year (I’ve planted a few more rows recently and, as you saw, this was a very good year, quality and quantity-wise). Still, that’s not a lot of wine by “commercial” standards but, it’s going to be real wine with an authentic regional character (or else I’ll eat YOUR hat).

    Speaking of your hat, I’ll show you how to flatten out the brim of your hat so that, next time, you can work ALL day under the Texas Hill Country sun.


  3. Pingback: Sognando Piemonte (Piedmont Dreamin’) « Do Bianchi

  4. @Alice I’m SO GLAD you reminded me to take my hat! Seriously! Looking forward to your visit out here…

    @Lewis A day outdoors in the sun did me and Tracie P some good! Glad we could be there and excited for your vintage… Let me know when I can come down again to “document” the vintage… It’ll be like Steinberg’s book on the 1989 vintage of Gaja’s San Lorenzo!

    @Vinogirl When are we going to get to taste the wines that you and VinoMaker make?

    thanks, ya’ll, for stopping by!

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