Harvest at Maison Ilan
I have just spent an awesome few days with Ray Walker at Maison Ilan helping with the harvest for 2011. Ray is based in Nuits-St-George and this is his third vintage having moved to France from California to pursue his dream of making world class Burgundy wines. This was my first visit to Burgundy in an attempt to discover more about the Cote d’Or, its vineyards and its wines. Ray was the perfect teacher.
To say that Ray is focused would be to misrepresent his absolute passion, drive and commitment to producing wines that are a faithful representation of the soil in which the grapes are grown. Meticulous attention to the quality of the fruit coming in and ruthlessness in discarding anything that doesn’t meet his extraordinarily high standards are the order of the day.
There are no high tech gizmos in his winery / garage, no vibrating sorting tables, no air blowers or optical sensors. This is manual wine making, every grape bunch is hand sorted, every leaf and ladybird is manually removed before the grapes receive their only mechanical touch – the de-stemmer. Further sorting of the de-stemmed grapes removes any stem remnants (jacks) before the grapes are placed in the wooden or stainless steel fermentation vats. A small dose of sulphur is the only addition and fermentation is left to start naturally. Pigeage is kept to an absolute minimum.
The days are long, starting at 7am and not stopping until all the fruit is sorted and safely in to the vats. Work continues late in to the night accompanied by the occasional fortifying beverage from Ray’s cellar!
I may be tired, bruised and grape juice stained but it was a great privilege to spend time with Ray and the rest of the volunteers, Mark Freeman, Alino Punzalan, Jonathon Beagle and Shun Yamaguchi. I’m excitedly looking forward to tasting the fruits of my labours in a couple of years and in the meantime you can follow Maison Ilan here.