Blackberry Farm

Friends of the Farm

Adventures in Wine Sourcing

Sourcing great wine can be an incredible adventure and sometimes even a bit scary.

One reason for this is that many of the world’s finest wine regions are on hills. Steep hills. Mountains even. These slopes provide great drainage, soil composition and stress levels for the vines. All are important for grape growing. However, accessing these vineyards can be a challenge in some of the best conditions. In other conditions (lesser conditions) it can be downright frightening, particularly when you don’t know the vineyard or area well. One trip that I was lucky enough to travel on was a trip to visit the Douro Valley of Portugal. I was with a group of about 6 people. All “hardened” sommeliers and wine professionals. After touring the valley one thing became apparent. The slopes of the Douro Valley are dangerously steep – so steep that they are not generally harvested by machines because they can’t handle the grade of the slope. One day, we visited Dirk Niepoort’s winery and the Vineyard Manager put us all in the back of a Range Rover with rumble seats to give us a tour of their land. Everything was fine until the driver took what seemed to me to be an unscheduled hard right off of the access road and our vehicle went nose first down the steepest vineyard I have ever seen at a speed that was just this side of free falling. With skillful driving and colorful expletives, we arrived at the bottom of the vineyard and back on the access road having effectively skipped several switchbacks and missing precious vines along the way. Looking back on it, I believe the vineyard manager was trying to impress on us the severity of the vineyards but at the time, all I could do was hold on and hope that we would make it! It took several glasses of Dirk Niepoort’s great still wines and Ports to get us all back to a normal level of calm!

Andy Chabot, Director of Food and Beverage