When visiting foreign countries, what I am interested in is not monuments, sight-seeing tours or casinos. When I visit foreign countries, what I am interested in is more an in depth approach to the land and to the people I am going to meet. Our time is always limited when going abroad. The clock is
ticking as soon as we get our passport stamped with the visa, leaving us a precise amount of time to go around and search for what makes this country unique. By unique, obviously, I’m not talking about fast food culture, which unfortunately we see in every corner of the world nowadays with the same brands, the same taste. By uniqueness, I want to look for character and originality. ‘Every country has its own beauty’ I was told by a friend’s grandma who travelled a lot when she was younger. The sense of beauty I’m looking for is definitely in the uniqueness of people, places and agricultural produces.
The French name terroir stands for this uniqueness and originality. We cannot translate it into another language. It is a mixture of the earth, of the climate, of Man living on the land and of all the micro-organisms which are below the soil and who are inherent to the soil. A limited amount of time in
the USA means getting the maximum out of this visit by going straight to the essentials. The effort of asking, being misled sometimes, and rewarded often, is worth a shot. The word intensity could summarise this experience in North America: waking up at sunrise, spending an active day by driving around to different places, making the right contacts, and making research are the day-to-day routine. In what should have been a gap in activity between my work at Saugeen River CSA biodynamic farm in Ontario (Canada) and my work with biodynamic consultant Philippe Armenier in California, has been in fact filled with a road trip focussed on sustainable, organic and biodynamic farms, vineyards, and institutes linked with anthroposophy (except for the Amishs I was with this past week, that’s why I couldn’t update the blog as I wanted too).
When arriving in a region, the first thing we need are the basics: eat and sleep. Then, the reason why we are in this region has to be fulfilled. In that case, for the Finger lakes: sustainable, organic, and biodynamic vineyards. Usually, we took the decision with Claire to visit only one winery a day and
then take the rest of time for driving, writing, researching and resting. It is a constant search for balance between these activities. We are like jugglers playing with balls and sending one in the air. In this particular day before we leave for Pennsylvania, we wanted to visit Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, a winery reknowned for its riesling and the quality of its nursery, which is also a speciality of Hermann J. Wiemer. On a simple visit which was our intention at the beginning, arriving at 4.30 pm at the winery, we ended up spending 3 hours of lively, passionate and invigorating talks about wine with Frederick T. Merwarth the winemaker taking over Hermann.
Fred is a student of the sought-after Master Of Wine diploma which I already talked about in Holy Terroir. The first Master Of Wine student we met was James Christopher Tracy of Channing Daughters Winery in Long Island whom we met 4 weeks ago. With Fred, as with Christopher, I appreciated the
deep knowledge and the broad vision of the wine world. Fred has taken overthe vineyard after Hermann J. Wiemer who “retired” a few years ago. Fred warmly greeted us when we arrived at the winery
and he spent 3 hours with us explaining every aspect of the process. The winery has been built in an old barn and brings rusticity and down-to-earth elements to the winery. Very precise with the words he uses, and in the technical terms he employs, Fred could give us tasting comments very accurately with the wine we tasted. My only regret in this meeting with him is not to have been able to spend more time tasting the tanks and barrels of the previous 2009 vintage.
Fred and Hermann got their inspiration in the wine-making from Germany as Hermann is originally from this country. Fred, who worked as a business consultant, changed his life radically when he switched to wine-making 10 years ago and went to work with Hermann learning about the wine-making alchemy. Very honest with the methods he uses in the field, I appreciated the
transparency when Fred talked with us about the only one synthetic chemical spray he uses in the field at the early season of the powdery mildew stage. They till the soil, (Fred goes himself working in the vineyards – he was putting up wires to train the vines when we arrived), they have minimal intervention in the cellar – only one filtration, low sulphur.
About all the wines we tried, I prefered the chardonnay 07 stainless fermented, aged in barrels for 8 months. It is floral with linden flowers aromas, very mineral in the mouth, delicate, sharp, straightforward, and has an incredible length. Good ageing potential. To be honest, I’ve been seduced
by almost all the wines we tried this day with Fred. The dry riesling 2008 also retained my attention too with its zesty, lemony, passion fruit, golden green apple and green pear character. Definitely, this is a domain to watch out in the coming years for its purity of style and definite expression.
I would still be there tasting, exchanging and getting inspiration from a meeting like we had with Fred if it wasn’t so late that Saturday. Two visits in a day (the first one was at Anthony Road Winery) seems not a lot when you are just touring and seeing only with your eyes. But two wineries are really a lot if you came across such characters like Fred filled with passion, energy and will to share the knowledge he has. The tour of the four wineries (the first two were Silver Thread Vineyard and Standing Stone Vineyard) in the Finger lakes ended up by a night camping in the middle of the vineyard by a warm night and under a starry sky. The day to follow will be a long drive from upstate New York to south east Pennsylvania state: the Amish country near where we’ll be spending a few days in another Camphill community (Kimberton Hills) – which we will be talking about in the French version of Holy Terroir.