By Erika Ehmsen, Sunset copy chief
It might be dinner, but it’s no feast without wine. And food editor Margo True and Team Kitchen are planning a feast.
Our test garden grapevines are leafy and lovely (see below), but their fruit won’t be wine-worthy for at least three years. Where to turn for local grapes? Practically our own backyard: The nearby Santa Cruz Mountains, an appellation known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
We narrow our focus to this local AVA, and we feel the end-of-summer heat to put dibs on grapes soon because the fall harvest is approaching. But who would sell to us, first-time winemakers still debating red vs. white? (I Love Lucy–style grape-stomping appeals to all of us on Team Wine, and we’d love to get our hands—and feet—in on the action with some red grapes, but Margo’s menu is leaning toward a white, which would mean buying white grape juice—instead of whole fruit—that’s already been pressed to get the color-giving grape skins away from the juice as soon as possible.)
Thankfully, I knew someone. Or rather, my dad did: Way back in the early ’80s, my dad worked with Dr. Thomas Fogarty, the renowned cardiologist. Dr. Fogarty was interested in wine’s positive effects on the heart, so he bought some land in the Santa Cruz Mountains and founded Thomas Fogarty Winery. One of my earliest road-trip memories is of driving up from Southern California so my parents could attend Dr. Fogarty’s 50th birthday party. Such a gorgeous piece of property—tendrils of fog sneaking through ridgetop woods. I doubted Dr. Fogarty would remember that gangly freckled kid, but since my dad still sees him at conferences, I thought he’d at least recognize my last name.
So I emailed winemaker Michael Martella (who’s been producing award-winning varietals for Fogarty Winery for more than 25 years), told him what an impact Fogarty Winery made on my young self, and asked him if he ever sells excess grapes to local winemakers. (Or wannabe winemakers—it’s hard to believe that, if we’re successful, we’ll be able to call ourselves winemakers!)
A couple of days later, my phone rings—Michael is interested in our experiment. He asks me a few questions, likes what he hears, and starts firing off possible grapes: “You’re interested in reds? I’ve got Pinot, Cab, Syrah, Malbec, Cab Franc, and Merlot. How much do you want to buy?” And if we go the white route, our options expand to Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer (a floral Fogarty Gewürz was one of the first wines I ever bought).
Hmm, decisions, decisions. Time to get together with Team Wine to discuss our path—over a glass of wine, of course.