Condor Valley Terroir Study: Duncan and Erin Meyers
The viticultural potenetial of Condor Valley is real. It is a unique, isolated region with its own distinct weather and climate patterns. The meterologic data that is collected should help inform future plantings. There are a multitude of expositions on the property and the soils are varied. Overall the impression seems to be that this is a fairly hot and dry and windy place with extremely porous soils that will demand large amounts of water to irrigate grapevines. Due to these considerations an ideal site will be a cooler site on a south facing slope that is exposed to the wind. Proximity to water is crucial.
Soils are generally sandy with some areas showing more rock at the surface. The steeper hillsides are loaded with quartz, decomposing granite and varying amounts of copper and iron oxides that give a red and green hue to the soil. Some areas are pure sand and there are many different shades of that as well. Overall the impression is that the soils are extremely well drained and have depleted nutrient levels, both of which are great for wine grapes. Soil was collected in four locations: La Concha (behind escuela), La Vina (across river), El Sorgo (sorgum field) and the last sample came from Hordones (along road near sorgo where there were vines at one time).
The hill called Cerro Del Aji across from puesto #1 looks to be the most perfect spot on the entire ranch to plant grapes. It faces South, is just steep enough, has amazing sandy loamy soil and has water nearby. It makes the most sense to clear and plant this first. There is another hill beyond the school that we named Cerro Del Peralta as it overlooks the Arroyo Peralta. This is an amazing south facing hill as steep as the terraced hill of the loft also made of solid decomposing rock. It needs to be cleared which would be brutal work but planted densely to Syrah and this could be one of the most exciting vineyards in South America.
-Studied geography to determine optimum planting locations
-Collected soil samples for analysis
-Installed Davis weather station for data collection
-Established line of communication and connection for clonal material with Jose Luis —Mounier and Andreas Hoy
-Analyzed local wine market for sales potential
-Established location for winemaking facility, cellar and tasting area
-Prepared report outlining findings
General Observations and Priorities:
– Martin is critical to the day to day operation of La Bodega. Training a successor to him that has the same skills is important. (Communication, delegation, fluency, organization, vision, motivation, trustworthiness, ambition, passion)
– Human resource management is paramount for any endeavor on La Bodega. Housing and transport are the paramount variables here.
– There are so many possibilities for La Bodega and El Tipal that the “dreaming phase” could go on forever. Some concrete decisions need to be made now and then action taken to initiate them. This is also a factor in Human Resource management as it determines how many people are needed. People like to know what lies ahead and have goals to work towards.
– Water from El Tunal is the lifeblood of La Bodega. Without it there is nothing without extensive development. Establishment of a concise framework and monitoring system of water rights should be considered of critical importance. How La Bodeguita and their plans fit into this framework is crucial since they are upstream and could potentially adversely affect the supply to La Bodega.
– Establish a long term plan for wine production on site; How much volume? What quality level? How many varietals? Where will the wine be sold? (The sales question will be answered by how much volume and of what quality is produced)
1. Finish housing improvements for workers: puesto refurbishment, running water, sewage disposal, waste management.
2. Finish terraces below loft. Add as many more as is feasible (3-5 more). If this can be done by mid June then all of the terraces can be planted to grapes at the same time which is ideal.
3. Clear 2-5 acres on Cero Del Aji for Torrontes, Syrah or Tannat, (Hill across from Puesto #1 or Casa Blanca). Start clearing at the bottom along the road and stop at the crest of the hill where it plateaus. Install drainage system using local rock. Install trellis wire system. Install drip irrigation system. Install pump to get water to the top of the hill for irrigation. Install water storage pond or large tank to irrigate vineyard via gravity.
4. Clear 1-2 acres near rafting company on elevated rock area. Design and build: wine cellar from native stone, bottle/case goods storage area, tasting room, grape delivery/ crush pad area, kitchen, dining area, parking lot, water supply system, wastewater drainage system, electrical infrastructure, refrigeration system. Fishing Loft?
5. Purchase one but preferably two ATV’s. Preferably Honda, these are very reliable. These vehicles will transform productivity on La Bodega; they will pay for themselves in the increased work that they will actualize. These vehicles can also be used for tours for visitors. The time it takes to prepare horses and then travel on them is a huge consumer of time and manpower. Horses should still be used for day to day cattle movement etc. just not as the sole form of transport other than the trucks. Travel time to El Tipal and to the river would be cut in half, in addition overall maintenance costs would be less. If a vineyard is in the plans then ATV’s are very helpful as is a heavy duty work truck. This truck should be a 2-ton, able to transport; bricks, corn, grapes, cows, horses etc. Ford F-250 or bigger.
6. Create some sort of apprenticeship program for the kids from the school on La Bodega. These kids will be tempted to work in the tobacco fields as soon as they are able to if there is no other option. Figure out how much they are payed by the tobacco farmers and pay them more so that they want to stay and work on La Bodega. Vineyard work? Sheep?
Quinoa? Vegetables? Cattle? Horses? Bakery?
– Create some sort of monetary system other than human transport of cash. It appears that a credit card that Martin could use would be very helpful. Cash transport is good for supplemental injections but as a system it has its risks, and shortcomings. Namely consistent flow so that projects can move forward at full steam. Without continuous finance projects are not completed on time and people are not happy.
– Turn Colonial house into a small, 2-3 room hosteria for guests, complete with community kitchen, dining area, garden, and solar powered electricity for basics. This building is beautifull, stately and is less exposed than the loft which could be too windy or sunny for many. Build out the community area behind Colonial house for dormitory style worker’s housing, kitchen and storage.
Winery Design Considerations:
– Gravity flow
– Use of native stone for cellar
– Water procurement, filtration and disposal
– Exposure to sun and wind
– Barrel storage, (refrigerated with drainage)
– Fermentation space
– Bottle storage space, (refrigerated)
– Tasting area
– Parking area
Vineyard / Winery Supply List:
-Local Vineyard Consultant (Cafayate)
-Heavy duty work truck
-Steel trellis support posts
-Wood end posts
-Irrigation pipe, hose, emitters
-Sulphur spray unit
-Water storage pond or tank
-Irrigation control box (solar)
-Fermentation vessels; concrete vats for reds, stainless steel tank for whites and blending/racking
-Barrels; new and used + rack system
-Water filtration system
-Inert gas; nitrogen, SO2
-Cleaning chemicals; citric acid, iodine, sodium percarbonate
-Capsules or wax
-2004 Cornejo Costas Cabernet Sauvignon, Cafayate 1,780m
Smooth and supple. Judicious use of oak, well integrated. Black currant, plum and anise.
-2005 Elementos Syrah, Bodega El Esteco Cafayate
Rough and woody. This wine is cheap and tastes that way. No integration, could be anything red. Bad
-2004 Trumpeter Malbec-Syrah
Integrated with good acidity and a peppery berry nose. Good weight and nice finish. Good.
-2006 Amauta Rose, 50% cabernet-50% Malbec
This is a great Rose wine. Good acidity, great aromatics of roses and leathery meat with white pepper. Tastes like a good Bandol. Great.
-2004 Amauta Malbec/Cabernet/Syrah, Cafayate 1,700m
Good balance of charred meat and earth. Oak is balanced and finish is long. Nice wine.
-2004 Colome Estate
International in style and fairly ambiguous especially for the price. Crowd pleaser for sure, just not very distinctive. Good.
-2006 Jose Luis Mounier Torrontes, Cafayate
Excellent balance of acidity and fruit. Clean and piercing this wine is like a green laser beam of fruit flavors. Great.
-2006 Nanni Torrontes
Dry and chalky components mingle with light fruit accents. A structured torrontes? Very good.
-2006 Nanni Tannat, Chimpas
Excellent soaring aromatics with great tannic depth and character. A little rough around the edges but loaded with life and meaty density. This is a great wine. Needs a year or two to really sing.
-2005 Valle Del Condor Malbec
Excellent balance of dark fruit and cream, good tannin resolution and great balance. A very enjoyable Malbec with soul. This was a great bottle, one of the best of the trip!! Go Carlos!
-2006 Humanao Torrontes
Dry and mineral laden. Tastes like a very dry chardonnay from Chablis. This wine has good structure and acidity with some pretty fruit as well. Excellent.
-2003 Humanao Reserva
Very oaky and alcoholic. This wine is not balanced and feels disjointed in the mouth. Alc is a problem. O.K
-2005 Colome Amalaya, Malbec/Cabernet/Tannat
Very nice wine with engaging aromas of tar and meat laced with blackberry and pepper. Balanced and not too oaky it has a super long finish. Much better than the Estate and cheaper too. Excellent
-2004 D.V Catena Syrah
Powerfull pepper and plum jump from the glass. Good color, density and weight. A touch oaky for my taste but overall a good wine. Good.
-2006 Raul Davalos, Bodega Tacuil 70% Malbec 30% Criolla
This wine was fermented and aged entirely in tank. Wow! The color is inky black and sticks to the glass. In the mouth the texture is fat and layered. Tastes like grilled bluberries. Excellent balance, acidity and length. Tied with the Valle Del Condor Malbec for best wine of the trip. Excellent!
-2006 Pena Veyrat Durbex
Had this wine at the Hotel Del Dique. Very ripe and over oaked. To angular to be readily enjoyed. Maybe in 5 years? O.K.
Many of the red wines that we tasted were simply big powerful monsters with little nuance. The flavors tended to be on the plumy, pruny overripe side, showing excess alcohol and oak. There were a few excellent standouts two of which were Tannat (La Boduegita, Nanni). Both of these wines were full of soul, were well balanced and had amazing exotic aromas. The Torrontes grape is being made in to great wine by many producers. It seems the folks in and around Cafayate have got it down, (Nanni, JL Mounier, Etchart, Humanao). These wines are being fermented at around 40 degrees F in stainless steel tanks and being bottled quickly upon completion of secondary fermentation. The grape growing regions in Argentina are fairly warm places and ripening the grapes is not a problem. We think Selection of cooler sites and matching the proper varietals to those sites is important. Harvesting the grapes before the sugars go through the roof and aging the wines in neutral oak barrels seems to be the key to better balance and more engaging wines.