The Terra Madre Americas conference in Sacramento featured both free and ticketed wine tasting events. (Photo by Lisa Nottingham Photography, Visit Sacramento)

Vino Madre

Juicy scenes from the wine tasting room at the first Terra Madre Americas

Back Web Only May 30, 2024 By Becky Grunewald

For three days in May, the floor of the Memorial Auditorium was transformed into a global foodways classroom where one could sample coffee from Honduras, eat a cookie made from Bolivian quinoa and spin an oversized wheel that directed you to pithy sayings by food journalist Michael Pollan (example: “Eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re bored” — OK, Michael, easier said than done). And that’s not even to mention the room where free wine tastes were flowing freely: the buzziest area in two senses of the word. 

Here you could spot local luminaries such as Chef Brad Cecchi of Canon and Patricio Wise of Nixtaco, wearing his signature cowboy hat. This reporter tried to get a quote from Darrell Corti, but he kindly replied that he had had “enough publicity” and instead directed me to talk to the booth for Bolivian winery Jardin Oculto, saying that drinking their wines was like “drinking history.”

Wine journalist and Slow Wine Guide USA editor Deborah Parker Wong hosts an event devoted to grapes grown by Ann Kraemer of Shake Ridge Ranch. (Photo by Becky Grunewald)

Maria Jose Granier, the founder of Jardin Oculto, was pouring her wines made from centuries-old grape varietals brought by Spanish missionaries to Bolivia. She was also displaying photos of the remarkable vineyards, which are grown using a rare heritage technique of tree-trellised vines. One can only hope that Darrell will bring these intriguing wines to Corti Brothers.

Ticketed wine tastings were also occurring in a smaller side room during the event, mostly with wines from the Sierra Foothills area. One such event was a tribute to Amador County grape farmer and winemaker Ann Kraemer of Shake Ridge Ranch. The hour-plus event was moderated by wine journalist and Slow Wine Guide USA editor Deborah Parker Wong, as well as five winemakers who have used the 12 varieties Kraemer grows to make very different wines. 

Guests line up for sips in the free wine tasting area. (Photo by Becky Grunewald)

Kraemer, a fourth-generation farmer, bought the property in 2003, after 20 years working in the wine industry in Napa and Sonoma. In a way that only a farmer talking about her land can do, she spun a gripping tale about the microclimates within her 50 acres of vines, including hard-learned lessons that any uncleared land on her property had been left that way for a reason by the 19th-century farmers who came before her. As with almost every conversation at Terra Madre, climate change was a specter in her presentation. She talked about trying to mostly practice dry farming but having to irrigate occasionally, counting on the cool nights that she hopes will last to keep her grapes in the desired condition for harvest.

From there, we tasted through foot-treaded grenache made with ambient yeast, mourvèdre of which Wong, jukebox of pithy wine descriptions, declared, “It has a patchouli spice character — it’s like catnip for me,” and more. All the winemakers gave effusive praise to Kraemer and her methods, with Matt Naumann of Newfound Wines saying, “All the vintners are standing on Ann’s shoulders.”

At this inaugural Terra Madre Americas, one could sip, chew, chat and learn for hours, mostly for free. Now that Sacramento has met its Madre, we can look forward to the event as it evolves and grows in the years to come.

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