Harvest is in full swing right now in California wine country. In Carneros, a grape growing corridor that straddles Sonoma and Napa counties, Jose and Gloria Ferrer continue to tell their story through sparkling wine. Their story spans continents, wars, and generations, but the result is bringing sparkling wine from the Old World to California. Jose Ferrer came from generations of grapes growers and wine makers in Spain, who established the company Freixenet.
Photographs by Marla Aufmuth for Gardenista.
Above: Jose Ferrer's father and brother were killed in the Spanish Civil War; Jose and his wife Gloria set out to realize his father's dream of having a winery in the United States. Here they found an ideal place to grow pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. Jose named the winery for his wife.
Above: The classic varietals used to make champagne in France are pinot noir and chardonnay. This cluster of pinot noir grapes is ready to be picked.
Above: Vineyard managers must time the harvest perfectly. The grapes need just the right amount of sugar. If they wait too long, the wines will be too sweet; too early, and they will be too tart.
Above: It seems odd that a purple grape is used to make white sparkling wines, but the color in red and blush wines comes from the skins, not the flesh.
Above: For sparkling wine, the grapes are picked while it's barely morning, before the sun has come up. They are sorted and crushed very quickly so the juice is cold, as this extracts less color and less astringency.
Above: Sticks, stems, and leaves must be removed from all the grapes. They are then made into compost to fertilize the vineyards.
Above: In order to get the bubbles, these bottles go through the traditional méthode champenoise, which originated in the Champagne region of France. After a primary fermentation where yeast is added to the grape juice--similar to most wines-- a secondary fermentation occurs inside the bottles. Then the yeast must be removed, and the bottles capped.
Above: Any sparkling wines not made in Champagne, France cannot be called champagne. That's why we call these "sparkling wines." iIn a few years from now, the grapes picked this year will become effervescent sips of the California chapter of Jose and Gloria Ferrer's story. (N.B.: For more winemaking, see "DIY: Grafting Grapes.")