Irish Monkey Cellars
Touriga National "Strasse" - the story
$55 / 750 ml.
Inside every cloud is a silver lining
We had just obtained a shiny new pallet jack (a trolley with forked fingers that goes under a wooden pallet, raising it a few inches, so it can be wheeled anywhere one likes), and had picked up a crushed 1,000 pound bin of Touriga National in the big 22 foot truck. It was about 10 PM and Bob wanted to get the Touriga off the truck because the next day was "the big harvest" up in Napa. No point in carrying that around!
The back of the largest trucks has a hydraulic lift typically called a "Tommy Lift". The idea is, one rolls large things onto the lift, then either raises or lowers them from the street. Bob wheeled the 1,000 lb. bin onto the Tommy Lift, and before he could let it down, it began to slip off. In all of 3 seconds, the whole bin had slipped off the lift, and sideways onto the street.
1,000 pounds of grapes were now "on the Strasse". David Boyd and Bob Lynch then worked into a flurry of a hustle - for all that grape needed at the least to be off the street, and into containers for disposal. So, for the next hour or two, we were quickly and carefully moving grape skins and juice back into smaller containers, to be put in the yard. Most of the free-run juice just went down the gutter.
Bob, disgusted at the loss, disinclined to actually do anything with the remaining grapes, did nothing for 3 days. The "trash day" green-bin pickup was coming though, and he thought "well, let's see about those street grapes". Amazingly, without so much as the addition of a single packet of yeast, tablet of sulfite, punch down, or anything ... the Touriga National skins and remaining juice were happily fermenting away. The winemaker couldn't believe his eyes. Surely it would have gone bad!
So instead of tossing it out, Bob decided to let the misfortunate 'preprocessing' step run its course. Would it be wine? Would it be hopelessly vexed by all nature of odd natural yeasts that would "have their way" with it?
Surprisingly, no! The natural yeasts that took over were perfectly suited to take the remaining juice and convert it to fine wine. The few tiny rocks that might have been picked up from the road were of course safely at the bottom. By good fortune, Bob and Dave had the presence of mind to only take the "top layer" of grapes ... which turned out beautifully.
Now realistically ... it isn't likely that Bob will intentionally spill a load of Touriga onto the road next year, just to repeat the performance. But it is likely that he will take a small portion, and skim off all the skins at the top (before fermentation begins), leaving a free run that can be blended with another variety ... just to simulate the original serendipitous misfortune!Click Touriga National to see the tasting and pairing notes.