Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dispatch from the South. The Deep South. The REALLY Deep South.

by Kelby Russell, winemaking team member from afar

Greetings from Tasmania!  (No, no... not Tanzania.  Look further east and to the south.  Nope, that's New Zealand.  Great place, had a blast making wine there last year, but look back to the west a bit.  It's part of Australia.  No, not quite - down a bit.  The huge island south of the main continent.  Bingo!  That's me waving from the north-central part of the heart.  Can you see me?  Excellent.)  Welcome to a land with a tiny yet hugely friendly population, the highest valued grapes in Australia, and simply unfathomable amounts of road kill -which I say full and well knowing what November in Western New York looks like.

Oysters and Scallops
Did I mention seafood?  There is a lot of great seafood here.

We've Been Working Hard, I Swear
Listen, at least the place is called Wineglass Bay.
That counts as work, right?

It's been a few weeks since I have had the opportunity to post on this blog, although I have been happy for every opportunity to catch up on what is happening back home at Fox Run.  In the coming weeks, as the harvest begins in earnest down here, I hope to be able to send in some more posts about what is happening down here, where I am, and what the experience of hopping hemispheres is like every few months to chase the harvest.  For this first post from the Down Under's down under, however, I have been compiling a mental list of the things from the Finger Lakes I miss now that I'm away.  In no particular order:

  • Normal Bread:  Not normal as in standard, average, or regular; but Normal as in the fantastic bakery in Geneva run by Dustin Cutler of the same name.  While at home I could live off his world class baguettes (just try to find one that crisp yet so flavorful in France), not to mention the seasonal breads and rich cookies.  Coming someplace with few artisan bakeries is a shock to the system, which I am only partially filling with the fool-proof No Knead Bread recipe from Jim Lahey.  If you are a fan of spectacular bread, make sure to check out Normal if you are in the area or try that recipe otherwise.
  • Opus Espresso:  We have a gorgeous tasting room and cafe where I am in Tasmania, with wonderful espresso drinks at only $1.50 each for staff.  What we don't have is the fantastic food, house-roasted coffee beans, and especially the warm smiles of Heather and Chelsea at Opus in Geneva.  Anyone who knows me can tell you that I don't drink much caffeine, usually only a small size drink once a day, but stopping at Opus every morning was more beneficial for my mental health than coffee ever could be.
  • Dinosaur BBQ:  How can you miss bbq in a land stereotypically known for "throwing a shrimp on the barbie"?  Because that is a grill.  I miss the American treasure that is southern BBQ, something I will not taste again until I get home and can eat ribs and pulled pork at Dinosaur BBQ until I catch up on all I've missed.
  • Buffalo Wings and Pizza:  There is nothing complicated about a buffalo wing, certainly nothing highbrow, but being able to get a really well prepared dozen is a simple and pure pleasure.  While they simply don't exist here in Tasmania, pizza is an entirely different situation.  There is plenty of pizza in Tasmania, it just happens to all be truly terrible.  Half of them are topped with a tomato sauce that is nearer in sweetness and taste to a thick BBQ sauce, the other half are topped with BBQ sauce that somehow puts even that to shame.  Pile on top of that any number of processed cheeses and at least five mismatched toppings before throwing it into a lukewarm toaster oven.  The fact that the crust is insipid in texture and taste is totally drowned out by the cacophony happening over it.  Pizza is a fantastic and democratic dish, but that doesn't mean every single bar with a microwave should have one.
  • Spring:  Going fall-winter, fall-winter, brief slice of summer, fall-winter, fall-winter is tougher than you might imagine.  Yes you get to skip out on the end of winter, but that 'rebirth' phase is really lacking when you keep jumping to the other end of the season spectrum.
  • Finger Lakes Wine:  Tasmania specializes in sparkling wines, pinot noir, and Alsatian aromatic white grapes (riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot gris).  You would think that this would make me feel right at home here.  And while they do make some fascinating and beautiful wines from those grapes here in Tasmania, and while I certainly appreciate the opportunity to learn about their fruit and winemaking methods to expand my palate, I miss the clarity and structure of the Finger Lakes rieslings that I've come to love.  I have a case of them I carted with me all the way here to give out as gifts and examples, but it is taking a huge act of self-control to keep them in the box.
  • The People:  Family first and foremost, both my own and the family at Fox Run that is so caring and closely knit.  Yet in a larger sense, what I immediately notice and miss the most whenever I travel to another wine region are the people that populate the Finger Lakes wine industry.  The camaraderie, earnest work, optimism, and love for our relatively unheralded region and one another.  Other wine regions may have people who are in love with their slice of land, their winery/company, or themselves - but the Finger Lakes are where the people love the whole region and support one another.

In speaking with my Grandmother a few days ago, she mentioned that the first time I left home it nearly broke her heart.  Now, however, she insists on shaking my hand whenever I leave and says she believes her grandson needs to travel and learn in order to keep growing into whatever I eventually can be.  It is that type of love and support, from my parents, family, friends, Fox Run, and everyone I've met across the Finger Lakes that instantly become a strong friend that really stands out whenever I travel and gain a feel for a different wine region.  

Yes the travel is a fantastic work and education opportunity, but the greatest lesson I've learned has nothing to do with winemaking.  When I left for college I thought I was done with the Finger Lakes and would find my place in the bright lights of a big city, yet I inexplicably found myself drawn back. Now I understand.  Sometimes growing and traveling is about learning what you want to return to - along with ways you want to bring back what you've learned to impact it.  Grandma, I imagine that I'm going to keep traveling (wanderlust being what it is to a young winemaker, after all) - but I don't think you have to worry about my returning to the Finger Lakes anymore, about returning home.

Music of the Day:

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