December 1, 2007
What wines do you use to inveigle? Although wine’s seductive qualities are well known, I’m speaking of cooperation of a different kind. In our case, we needed to convince friends to give up a couple valuable weekend days to help with our olive harvest at Lila Farms.
Although we have three olive harvests under our belt, we thought this was our first with sufficient fruit and ripeness to attempt an estate bottling. Ooops. This season, our year’s worth of solitary, blister-inducing, back-breaking, sweat stained, knee-cracking labor returned only 351 pounds of olives, or 4.5 gallons of olive oil. Three gallons less than last year’s crop.
But the "Green Acres" woes of weekend farming don’t tell today’s story. Today we speak of the harvest party, the food and wine celebration that encourages friends and relatives to return, year after year. You see, orchards of our size must be harvested by hand, many hands actually, until we are large enough to justify a more efficient means.
Now, for those who’ve never harvested olives, let me assure you that pulling olive after olive off of branch after branch quickly grows mind-numbing. But this slow, deliberate, berry-by-berry task encourages conversations not possible in, say, the fast-moving environment of the grape harvest, where the fruit grows cooperatively in convenient clusters just waiting to be severed from the vine. When harvesting olives, people have time to catch up with friends they haven’t seen since last year’s harvest party. News comes out about job changes, ailing parents, marriages, divorces, raising kids… everything.
Nick Tucker, one of this weekend’s intrepid volunteers, nicknamed this social aspect "the Talking Trees" after the bits of conversation one overhears while peering out from inside a heavily-laden tree. Voices without faces reconnecting with equally anonymous listeners somewhere out there beyond the olives in front of you.
Tree house fantasies and ATV trailer rides may have provided the memorable highlights for the kids. For the adults, it was the Talking Trees and the food and (of course) wine, served tree-side on our rolling, ATV-drawn, makeshift bar.
Our olive oil is of excellent quality, with lots of the pepperiness contributed by the valued phenolics and anti-oxidents that make olive oil so healthy. It’s not a cooking oil, but is excellent as a vinaigrette or when drizzled on top of pizzas, pasta, belly buttons or foot massages. And to accompany such gastronomic delights, I recommend some great vinous ones.
Which begs the question "what wines would you choose if you had to convince friends to provide free labor on a cold December day?" Ahhh, we have just the ticket – Pull out a few large format bottles and then throw in some of our "Sideways" favorites, such as…
Andrew Murray Vineyard, 2005 Grenache, $30 (Click to Buy) – With its typical flirtatious personality, this Grenache offers enough billowing aromas to double as a pleasant potpourri. But don’t waste it like that. Use its charms to lure your friends into your own celebration of harvest, year end, holidays, and family. And to accompany the spice of the grenache, try it with some nice peppery olive oil drizzled on top of most any meat, particularly anything grilled, such as the carne asada at Saturday’ fete!
Au Bon Climat, 2005 Pinot Noir "Isabelle", $50 (Click to Buy) – Named after Winemaker Jim Clendenen’s daughter. This wine is blended from the best barrels of ABC’s single-vineyard Pinot Noirs (Bien Nacido, Sanford & Benedict, Talley Rincon, Mt. Carmel…the proportions are a very proprietary secret). It is the winery’s premiere Pinot Noir, and has just been named to the Chronicle’s #1 Pinot Noir in it’s "Top 100 Wines of 2007". But more importantly, this wine is food friendly, with particular affinities for anything grilled or smoked. Such as the smoked salmon appetizer on Saturday’s menu.
L’Uvaggio di Giacomo 2006 Vermentino, $12 (Click to Buy) “With its natural acidity, moderate alcohol, and herb-and-citrus nuance, this wine is a natural seafood partner. Dances well with Thai or Vietnamese or other cuisines that deliver a bit of spice.” We selected this wine specifically because of the spice in one of the dishes we served – the Runaway Chicken Chowder – a recipe contributed by our friend Laura Nagle, and soon to appear in our long-delayed family cook book.
Get Laura Nagle’s Runaway Chicken Chowder Recipe Here!(Perfect with the Uvaggio Vermentino, and unsurpassed at inveigling!)
Dave Chambers, Wine Merchant
"Observe how ephemeral and worthless human things are. Pass then through this little space of time conformably to nature, and end thy journey in content, just as an olive falls off when it is ripe, blessing nature who produced it, and thanking the tree on which it grew."
Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor, AD121-180
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