Mendoza

Ghost Women Appear Again

Three more for the portfolio, all from old, weathered and torn posters hanging on obscure walls…

 

“Disappearing USA Woman Haunted by Her Two Exs”:

Ghost Women, #29. Mendoza, Argentina, 2017
Ghost Women, #40. Mendoza, Argentina, 2017

 

“Torn From A Good Father”:

Ghost Women, #30. Mendoza, Argentina, 2017
Ghost Women, #41. Mendoza, Argentina, 2017

 

“The Scarlet Letters Of Our Times”:

Ghost Women, #31. Mendoza, Argentina, 2017
Ghost Women, #42. Mendoza, Argentina, 2017

The Grapes of El Valle del Pedernal (San Juan, Argentina)

Harvest Time, Valle del Pedernal. San Juan, Argentina, 2016
Harvest Time, El Valle del Pedernal. San Juan, Argentina, 2016

 

Given the snowy, rainy, slushy-sloppy conditions here in Colorado USA right now, I thought it comforting to revisit some images I had not processed–until now–from a recent trip down to warmer and drier climes in Argentina.

So, this is sort of a short photo-documentary of a journey with the brand new “yerno” (son-in-law), Martín Montané, from the City of Mendoza up to San Juan Province to load up a small truck with crates of juicy Malbec grapes.

The harvest was destined for the Montané family’s home wine-making operation (their artisanal label Facebook page: Tierra Adentro).

 

 

El Valle del Pedernal sits at about 4,600 feet above sea level, on the eastern, more arid, slope of the Andes Mountains. It has only recently been developed as a major grape-growing area, but will likely eventually rival Valle de Uco (Mendoza) as a quality growing region:

The Vineyards. Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016
The Vineyards. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016

 

Some of the grapes are harvested by machine, others by hand. It all depends on what the final wine product will be. The machine isn’t quite as neat as the hand of a real human bean (sic) in harvesting, though, so it is the manually-picked grapes that will likely go into making the better wines. The small bins to the right are ours for the Montané Tierra Adentro artisanal winery. Normally, during the harvest, much, much larger crates are filled, then loaded by tractor onto big semi-trucks–as you can just barely see in the background on the far left. Our 30-bin “take” was a pretty puny job by the standards of this huge finca (farm):

Grape Harvester. Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016
Grape Harvester. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016

 

As the workers filled our bins, Martín went through each and did an initial, cursory, cleaning of leaves, loose stems, and any potentially rotten grapes that could affect the batch. From what he said, the harvest looked to be of excellent quality overall–and they did taste nice and juicy!

A Cursory Cleaning. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016
A Cursory Cleaning. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016

 

The foreman directs the crew to divert their attention temporarily from the big industrial-sized crates and to fill up our small plastic bins. The work is done in just a few minutes. The man at the left holds a device which records the number of bins harvested by each worker–that’s how they are paid. If I understood and converted correctly, they get about a dollar a bin–and those things weigh in at about 40-45 pounds per bin. Definitely hard work!

Filling the Bins, #3. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016
Filling the Bins, #3. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016

 

The man in the round hat with the device is registering another bin load from a worker. Note the huge crate of grapes that will eventually be loaded onto the semi-trailer truck. As a guess, each one must weigh in at 500 to 1,000 pounds when full. That’s Marcelo Bernal walking toward us down the road, the in-charge day-to-day manager of the whole 600-plus acre operation:

Counting Bins, #2. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016
Counting Bins, #2. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016

 

One of the hard-working guys on the harvest crew, probably a local Sanjuanino. If you are in to soccer at all, you’ll notice he is a fan of the famous Boca Juniors team, based in Buenos Aires. Those are scissors in his right hand for cutting the grapes from the vine. He is assigned a bin with a number and earns cash for each one he fills. It is hot, hard, sticky work:

Picking Grapes. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016
Picking Grapes. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016

 

The final bins are filled. That’s our little truck on the left that will soon be stuffed with 30 of them, or about 1,000 pounds of Malbec grapes:

Filling the Bins, #7. El Valle del pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016
Filling the Bins, #7. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016

 

Martín does some light, organic, disinfecting of each bin prior to loading:

Disinfecting. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016
Disinfecting. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016

 

Exactly thirty of those plastic bins will fit inside–not one more. We barely wedged the spare tire on top of it all when we were finally packed up! The tarp will be used to cover and seal the load. Why? Because we are transporting between the Province of San Juan and the Province of Mendoza and there are strict import-export ag controls between the two regions. Neither Province wants to spread pests–like the Mediterranean fruit fly, for example–into the other. Before leaving San Juan, the load will be inspected and sealed with a special, tamper-proof, metal tie. The load will be inspected again when we cross into Mendoza, and a third time once we arrive at the Montané bodega (their garage, actually) in Mendoza to make sure the the cargo has stayed sealed and the grapes are pest-free:

Packing the Truck. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016
Packing the Truck. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016

 

Martín Montané waits while the finca boss, Marcelo Bernal  completes the paperwork on the sale of the grapes. All of this paperwork must be in order for us to transport everything back to Mendoza City, a three-hour journey to the south:

Doing the Paperwork. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016
Doing the Paperwork. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016

 

This map of the grape types grown on the finca was on the wall at the farm headquarters. I was impressed by how neat and orderly everything was–the buildings, the machinery, the harvesting process, and the perfect, perfect rows of all the different grape varieties, which included Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Merlot. They also have a huge walnut grove (Chandler variety) at the farm (in yellow on the map):

Plano de Variedades. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016
Plano de Variedades. El Valle del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina, 2016

 

Once back in Mendoza City and at the home bodega of the Montané family, the grapes went immediately into a machine to de-stem and crush the fruity rounds. In another century, this might have been done by many bare (and very stained!) feet, but the machine makes it a simple and quick task. Below, Facundo Montané, Martín’s brother and family jefe of the whole operation, skims off the stems that somehow make it through into the “must” (say, moost) bucket. The stripped stems fall into the left-hand bucket:

De-Stemming and Crushing. Mendoza, Argentina, 2016
De-Stemming and Crushing. Mendoza, Argentina, 2016

 

A top view of the machine. Martín tries to pull out any obvious loose leaves or stems just to make things even cleaner. Watch your hands!

The First Step. Mendoza, Argentina, 2016
The First Step. Mendoza, Argentina, 2016

 

Then the must gets poured into the fermentation tank:

Fermentation Tank. Mendoza, Argentina, 2016
Fermentation Tank. Mendoza, Argentina, 2016

 

Facundo checks the sugar content of the batch. It sits right at 22-23, so it looks good!

Checking the Sugar. Mendoza, Argentina, 2016
Checking the Sugar. Mendoza, Argentina, 2016

 

The next steps in the wine-making process, after the fermentation, will be “clarification” (separating the clear fluid from the chunky stuff), then aging and bottling. At the Montané bodega, they hope to produce somewhere in excess of 4,000-5,000 bottles of several different wine varieties–as they have in years past. What they do is exactly what the big bodega’s do, but at Tierra Adentro, it is obviously on a smaller scale, much more artesanal, and very hands-on.

Being essentially a non-drinker (I just don’t like the taste of alcohol, more than for any other reason), this was all quite an education for me. A big thanks to Martín, Facundo, and the whole Montané family, as well as to jefe Marcelo Bernal for the wonderful sunrise tour of the Pedernales finca!

So, keep your eyes on the wine list at your local restaurant here in the States…lets see if any from El Valle del Pedernal, Argentina, start showing up. I am betting they will very soon!

 

For some color landscapes of the finca at El Valle del Pedernal (previously posted on Facebook)… CLICK HERE!!!

100 Inspirational Images from 2012

Zoo Prisoner. Mendoza, Argentina, 2005. Olympus D-580, 4mp point-and-shoot.
Zoo Prisoner. Mendoza, Argentina, 2005. Olympus D-580, 4mp point-and-shoot.

If you want some REAL inspiration, take a look at Twisted Sifter’s web site HERE. You’ll find 100 absolutely spectacular images to feast your hungry artistic eyes upon.

Note that they all include one or more of the following ingredients:

1) A highly unusual perspective.

2) A highly unusual event or subject matter.

3) Spectacular lighting.

Let that be a lesson to all of us who are also trying to make beautiful images!