SPIDER9There’s a giant spider living somewhere in my room. I’ve seen him once. I turned away to grab a shoe (to gently convince him to live elsewhere, you see), and turned back around just in time to see him scuttling under my bed (…the horror!) I haven’t seen him since… clearly his intelligence is evolving. He’s biding his time until I relax my guard.

Maybe even gathering reinforcements…

Dammit.   Let’s talk about something else.

Since the last post, we’ve pretty much been doing the palissage every day. There’s something relaxing, and even satisfying, about tucking vines in for 9 hours a day. There are obviously much more practical reasons, but the rows just look so neat when we’ve finished.

Palissage: find a parcel, make it nice and neat then find another parcel and do it all over again.

Palissage: find a parcel, make it nice and neat then find another parcel and do it all over again.

It’s kind of like raking a sand garden, over and over again. Except our sand garden has things that bite:

Vineyard friend or foe? Garlic flowers (friend, has a bite we like); It's bring-your-dog-to-work day with Nikita (yes, same name as the horse); spiders everywhere. These bees have set up shop in a hole in the ground between the rows. Poppies are always welcome. These roots are growing out of the top of the stump (weeiiiirrd!) and finally... nettles. These guys are the WORST!

Vineyard friend or foe? Wild garlic flowers; it’s bring-your-dog-to-work day with Nikita (yes, same name as the horse); spiders everywhere. These bees have set up shop in a hole in the ground between the rows. Poppies are always welcome. These roots are growing out of the top of the stump (weeiiiirrd!) and finally… nettles. These guys are the WORST!

Week 5 and Pfaffenheim 059One of the benefits of doing the same activity over and over again is that it is very easy to compare one parcel to the next, as well as the development curve of the vines as they approach harvest. The grapes are growing very quickly. They’d just flowered when I last wrote, and the berries are the size of small pebbles now. Some parcels are more prone to mildew, especially because of the rain we had in June. Other parcels are particularly vigourous, with giant vines and ferocious plant growth in between the rows (ie. the dreaded nettles. Sidestory: I had no idea what nettles looked like when I first got here. One day of wearing shorts quickly fixed that for me. Cue a month of wearing long pants, and I’m now entering the ring again for round two of bare legs vs. nettles… ding ding ding! For what it’s worth, I think I’m losing round two too…)

Oh, but it’s nice to have a different view every day!

Check out that slope - the Heimbourg Pinot Gris has a serious angle overlooking Turckheim. The view from the other direction looks up one of the many valleys in the Haut-Rhin. In the winery, we meet every morning and afternoon to review the day's tasks. The lunar calendar also helps guide the daily activities. A little more spraying is necessary as the weather forecast is calling for more rain. And the view from the Rotenburg parcels, overlooking the village of Wintzenheim.

Touched by an angle: the Heimbourg Pinot Gris has a serious slope overlooking Turckheim. The view from the other direction looks up one of the many valleys in the Haut-Rhin. In the winery, we meet every morning and afternoon to review the day’s tasks. The lunar calendar also helps guide the daily activities. The weather forecast calls for another round of spraying before the rain this week. And the view from the Rotenburg parcels, overlooking the village of Wintzenheim.

There has been one day in the cellar so far. Most of the cellar-work doesn’t come until August, when we will start bottling. Even though it’s the summer of 2016, we’ll actually be bottling the 2014s. The white wines of Zind-Humbrecht are notorious for having long ferments (sometimes up to a year or more!) – significantly longer than the one month we typically see in Bordeaux. Half the foudres (giant oak barrels) are full, and we check the densities on those; the other half are empty and we sterilize them so they’ll be ready for the harvest in September.

Our tools for the day are tallow and sulfur tablets. We burning the tablets inside the giant foudres to keep them clean. This task also requires us to get up on top, and get comfortable hopping from foudre to foudre, as we'll be spending all our time up there during and after the harvest. Other cellar gems include this wine library.

Our tools for the day are tallow and sulfur tablets. We burn the tablets inside the giant foudres to keep them clean. This task also requires us to climb up on top, and get comfortable hopping from foudre to foudre, as we’ll be spending all our time up there during and after the harvest. Other cellar gems include this wine library.

It’s a tough day – particularly getting up on top of the 3-4 metre-high barrels. The foudres are not flat on top, nor are they the same size, so it sometimes takes a little mental swearing and a leap of faith or two, to get across the room (without stepping in the lava river…. see, it’s just like I’ve been practicing on my couch since I was, like, 3). There’s light at the end of the tunnel: if we work well, and quickly, we can use any time we don’t waste, by tasting anything we want in the cellar. Motivation indeed! Suddenly the vertigo clears itself up, and we have an hour to wander the barrel room with a few wineglasses. Certainly a day for the memory reel.

Outside of work, we’re spending our weekends visiting the areas around Turckheim. Every weekend, there’s a tasting or a fête of some sort. The first weekend is the 90th anniversary of Cave Geiler, a wine cooperative in nearby Ingersheim.

Doors open at Cave Geiler for their big 90th anniversary party. The winery tour takes us to the terrace, where we can see their Grand Cru Floriment vines in the distance. They are also proud hosts to the biggest foudre in Europe - 354 hectolitres, or 47,200 bottles of wine!

Doors open at Cave Geiler for their big 90th anniversary party. The winery tour takes us to the terrace, where we can see their Grand Cru Floriment vines in the distance. They are also proud hosts to the biggest foudre in Europe – 354 hectolitres, or 47,200 bottles of wine!

Another Saturday brings us to Soulz, to visit Domaine Robert Roth.  It’s the family winery of one of our coworkers, who is giving the tour. A horse-drawn carriage brings us up to the Mittelbourg parcels of Riesling, where we get a presentation on the history of the domaine, a little about the terroir, and a tasting of the Riesling from that parcel.

Oh man.. is that more rain coming? Now this is terroir: we get a lesson on soil (and climate) as well as a tasting of the Robert Roth Riesling from Mittelbourg. Back at the winery, the tartes flambées keep coming.

Oh man.. is that more rain coming? Now this is terroir: we get a lesson on soil (and a splash of climate) as well as a tasting of the Robert Roth Riesling from Mittelbourg. Back at the winery, the tartes flambées keep coming.

There must be a rule that every village has to throw a big party at least one weekend each summer, and the first one takes me back to my university days. For the Guelphites… it’s a mashup of Oktoberfest at Bingeman’s meets foam parties at the Palace! The Nuit du Vin at Dambach-la-ville and the Fête du Vin at Pfaffenheim that follow open up the whole downtown for the festivals, but each put their own twists on the party: cover bands vs. yodelers, gogo-dancers vs. brass band competitions.

Everyone is here to celebrate the wine. Everyone's musical tastes can be covered - 60s, yodeling, brass band.

Everyone is here to celebrate the wine. Almost everyone’s musical tastes can be covered – the 60s, yodeling, brass band. Though not enough Maiden, as usual.

And every once in a while it’s nice to take the bike and get lost.

Scenes from the Parc Naturel Régional des Ballons des Vosges, close to my house.

Scenes from the Parc Naturel Régional des Ballons des Vosges, close to my house. Vines, of course. The village of Walbach is a good place for a break; and a few more idyllic countryside views.

 

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