The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2010

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Page 77 of 116

EDUCATION As they arrived at the vineyard on a sunny morning in early February, the team was greeted by Martella and his vineyard man- ager, Julio. Standing between rows of vines on Windy Hill vineyard, the seasoned winemaker explained how soil structure and sun exposure have a direct impact in the character of his wines. Following a quick lesson in safety and basic pruning techniques, the Ritz team donned safety goggles and, with clippers in hand, began cutting away at Chardonnay vines. “I have a better understanding of how select grape vines work well with the climate and location they grow in,” explained restau- rant server Pat Tang of her experiences among the vines. “I believe by working in the vineyard one can gain a new appreciation of the vineyard’s nature that can be connected back to the wines,” said Restaurant Supervisor Kristen Dolotina, who led the Ritz outing. “It’s impor- tant for our team to understand wines from a vineyard perspective; after all, that’s where it begins. It amazes me that more restaurants wouldn’t take advantage of this, given our close proximity to some of the greatest vineyards in America.” After a few hours of hands-on experience, the Navio team was rewarded with a food and wine pairing in the winery’s beautiful dining room, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows suspended over the vineyards. “It is really special to be a part of the process from begin- ning to end,” says sommelier Nicole Ortega, Thomas Fogarty Vineyards winemaker Michael Martella. referring to the nuances involved in the initial stages of pruning. “Pruning is a three-step process that involves cutting, stripping and tying,” imparts Dolotina. “In the first step, two shoots are selected to carry next year’s grapes. The rest of the shoots are then cut off and stripped off of the vine. The final step, tying, involves gently wrapping the shoots on the wire. While this sounds simple, there is so much more to consider for each process.” Having spent some hands-on time in the vineyards, the Navio waitstaff will move on to a sommelier course that will give them a deep- er understanding of wines, which Dolotina insists shouldn’t be just about tasting and studying material. “Every sommelier should know the influences that impart specific characteristics in every bottle of wine,” she explains; “but a passionate sommelier will visit the vineyards and have the vineyard manager or winemaker walk him or her through each block, explaining the relationship between the terroir and the finished product.” Thomas Fogarty 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir is paired with a mouth-watering veal chop. This red showcases its regional character: bright fruit, taut acidity, velvety structure and an elusive forest floor/earthy char- acter. The grapes come from some of the finest, cold-climate, high-eleva- tion sites in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. april 2010 / the tasting panel / 77

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