Original Post: 05 August 2014
Utah, USA: Red Rock Country, or the Utah rock desert, is hot, harsh, dry, beautiful, and breathtaking all at the same time.
It has become obvious to me as a Vigneron, that Vitus Vinifera (i.e., the common grape vine) will grow practically anywhere. Just add water! In this case, water from the Colorado River and the various wells associated with the aquifers beneath the red rock desert.
Enter Moab, Utah, a bustling, out of the way tourist destination for the adventure sports including white water rafting, desert buggy racing, rock climbing, off-roading, motor bike riding, hang-gliding, the list goes on. The town boasts arts and crafts shops, cafés, a brewery, eateries, and ice cream shops.
Down the road, not far out of town we were told that there was a winery called Spanish Valley (http://www.moab-utah.com/spanishvalleywinery/). We decided to drive down the road to find the winery, which we were told was not far out of town, however, we missed the turn off. There were no big signs which felt a bit like our winery, you have to want to get there if you want to find it.
We were greeted by Curt (the Vigneron), his teenage daughter and the trusty, lethargic vineyard dog guarding the doorway, asleep of course. Our admiration for the determination and expertise to establish vines and produce quality wine in such a harsh climate, with such extreme daily temperatures and extremely low desert night time temperatures, left us feeling blessed at Flyfaire with our cool climate mountains.
Furthermore, Curt had suffered from frost conditions at bud break this past season which was very similar to the three weeks of frosting we experienced at Flyfaire this past spring. Unlike us, Curt was unable to avoid the severe frosting and his vines are now in the recovery stage.
The wines, a product of the hot environment, were of a standard most acceptable to the wine trade. We particularly savoured the Gewurztraminer and Syrah.
Following tastings, we enjoyed a lengthy discussion on Curt’s wine making prowess, his new tanks and his endeavours to obtain higher quality equipment to pursue his passion.
The limiting factors of his vineyard were the availability of quality water and electric power, an issue facing us all. Curt is only permitted to sell his wines directly to the public at his cellar door or send his wine to a state controlled central distribution centre, where various approval processes are required, before then being distributed by the state controlled liquor board to restaurants and wine outlets. This complex structure appeared to us to be a very cumbersome, antiquated regulatory system. However, Curt seemed to take all this in his stride and find his way around the system.
We enjoyed the visit to Spanish Valley Winery, Moab, Curt’s enthusiasm, his determination, and his passion for wine. Curt has developed a great new label for his wine with a distinctive lizard on the label, which we adored. We saw many of these little creatures in the desert reminding us of the same dry determination to establish a vineyard and survive in this harsh environment.
We very much recommend a visit if you’re in downtown Moab. New signs are going up soon for Curt!
Enjoy the tastings and his hospitality.
Cheers, Les Hanel. Vigneron (Winemaker)