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Mountain Biking Meets Winemaking

Sat Oct 28, 2006

I’m tired. Or at least I was before pro mountain bikers Mary McConneloug and Mike Broderick joined us at Pax today. The duo just returned to the States from Brazil, where they were racing in the Pan American Mountain Bike Championships (Mary won, Mike took tenth). Still, they attacked the day’s tasks of treading frosty grapes and firm, whole-cluster punch downs with the enthusiasm of kids out riding their bikes.

Mike and Mary

Erin Myers, Mary McConneloug and Mike Broderick having too much fun treading grapes…

Their joy was infectious and their presence, along with assistant winemaker Duncan Meyers’ wife, Erin, the likely inspiration behind the six wines we blind tasted at lunch. I particularly enjoyed the 2001 Marques de Murietta Ygay Rioja Reserva, a well-balanced wine, with notes of cardamom and pepper, a little leather and dank earth on the nose and full, dark fruit in the mouth. ($23). We also tried a 2004 Sea Smoke TEN Pinot Noir. For all I’ve heard about this winery’s limited production Pinots, I was surprised to find it über-oaky. It improved tremendously as it opened up, revealing dark fruit, earth and a lush complexity.

It’s been busy in the almost two weeks since I’ve last been able to spell something other than my name (though please note, my last post was actually on 10/17, not 10/6). The only writing I’ve been doing includes dots representing Brix levels in our fermentation log and scribbled signatures on the weigh tags for new fruit–not exactly the elegantly executed, twice weekly mini-articles I’d originally planned. We’re now more than half way through harvest. Our tanks are full of fermenting grapes from such famed vineyards as Alder Springs “The Terraces,” Walker Vine Hill and Majik. Every clamp and gasket is being used, pumps roaring throughout the day. On any give afternoon we might be pressing one tank, bleeding a new one and maintaining a few others. With so much going on, it’s hard to imagine what production at a larger winery must be like.

Mark Anderwald

Mark Anderwald, the “Press Master”

The halfway point was festively marked by the arrival of Mark Anderwald, Pax’s official “Press Master” from Nantucket. Along with Mark came fresh Nantucket Bay scallops, which he lovingly harvested just before his departure. The scallops arrived Fed Ex and the following day the crush rats and their significant others trucked out to West Sonoma County for an evening of feasting at Pax’s house.


Winemaker Pax Mahle and his sister Punky


Food, friends and copious amounts of wine…

The scallops were served sautéed, but almost raw, with apples and shoestring potatoes (the perfect texture and flavor counterpoints to the sweet, briny scallops), as ceviche and with fresh grilled pizzas. They were ceremoniously enjoyed with bottles of Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé and a jeroboam (three-liter) bottle of Champagne Jacquesson Cuvée 729, its superfine bubbles spilling over the edges of our glasses. Satiated, we played a few games of dice, shot off a potato gun and laughed until the wee hours. Friends, good food and copious amounts of wine, that’s what our endeavors produce. Keep that in mind, and the efforts of a few hearty, if road-weary mountain bikers, and we’ll all make it another month.

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