I follow a lot of winemakers but Jeff Stai (El Jefe) is without question one of my favorites. Not only does he make incredible, one of a kind, vintages, but he has a really deep soul. I have been looking for a way to explain “El Jefe” to put him in context for this weeks “Weekly Wine”, His 2013 “Torcido” Grenache (posts tomorrow, February 28, 2016). I racked my brain for a way to do that without writing a book, an then I thought of Nacha and this post he published on the Twisted Oak Vineyard blog on June 16, 2014. I don’t know how I missed re blogging this piece sooner as a stand alone post as it really touched my heart but no matter because it does exactly what I want to accentuate this weeks “The Weekly Wine” and really set it up as a “must read” featured wine. Thanks El Jefe for really defining yourself, being a great human being, so much fun, and such a skilled,wonderful winemaker.
This is Jeff’s post from June 16, 2014 about””: Garnacha Blanca
In the Spring of 2004 two momentous events occurred. We moved into our new winery in Vallecito, and a little white pup came into our lives.
We had been visiting friends down in Orange County when a neighbor came by with her. She had been locked in a nearby house and left to die. The neighbor had rescued her and was trying to find someone who could take care of her. She licked my face and it was all over.
The next day she rode all the way home with us, sitting peacefully in the back seat just enjoying the ride. (We soon realized that her favorite thing to do was to go in the car, it didn’t matter where – just go!) We stopped every hour in case she needed to pee, but she waited until she got to her new home. She knew where she was going. She wanted to wait.
We never understood how anyone could leave such a sweet, lovable, well behaved puppy to die like that. At only four months she was fully potty trained, she knew how to sit and stay and shake hands. It still boggles. (That’s our first photo of her in her new home, just a bag of bones but already blocking traffic!)
She must have had a name but of course we never knew what it was. Being the wine geeks that we are, we named her after a grape: Garnacha Blanca. Nacha for short.
Many of you who have tasted from the barrel at the winery will remember her as the happy dog who loved to lick the drop off the end of the wine thief – “Nacha’s Share”. Or maybe she came up to your picnic hoping that you would drop something – she never entirely got over nearly starving to death as a pup. She was our “see-food dog”.
We also have cats, and Nacha raised all of them from kittens. It was a little unnerving at first to see “The Big White Thing” carrying a kitten around with its whole head in her mouth – but she was perfectly gentle and plopped them down safe and soggy.
And just this month she “made the big time”, she got her picture in the latest release of the “Wine Dogs” series of books, page 121.
Last week I noticed that she was having trouble getting into the car for the trip to the winery, I had to help her up. And she was clearly in pain. When we got to the winery our see-food dog refused a treat. This was not right and we had her into the vet the next day. X-rays showed a large mass in her abdomen, we scheduled surgery for today.
The mass was cancer, her liver had turned into one large tumor. There was nothing to be done. At best she would have only a few more days of life and more pain. We decided to accept the inevitable and let her keep sleeping.
I knew one day I would have to say goodbye to her, I just didn’t think it would be so soon.