Left Bend Wine Club members spent a delightful day together last month, filled with sweeping views of tree-studded mountains, sunshine in every direction, vertical Pinot Noir tastings, and a glass in hand as Ed Muns showed the group his acreage of Pinot and Syrah grapes.
Muns Vineyard, a favorite of Gary’s since before he began winemaking, is the source of Left Bend’s Pinot Noir. In June, it was the site of Left Bend’s exclusive Wine Club Member Vineyard Visit.
As the group sipped on wine, Ed shared the vineyard’s beginnings. When the retired 32-year Hewlett Packard engineer bought the Los Gatos property off Loma Prieta Avenue in 1988, he had no plans to plant a vineyard. But in 1998, he began taking steps to make farming his second career.
“I just backed into this,” Ed said. “I wanted to farm and be in the outdoors, not sitting in an office all day. My original plan was just to grow grapes and sell them to people like Left Bend to make wine.”
But in 2004, a fellow winemaker Peter Bargetto of Soquel Vineyards suggested Muns have their own label and wine. So Ed and Mary Lindsay did just that.
“We decided we wouldn’t do the whole vineyard, we would just do a small bit in our label,” Ed said. “But it would keep us connected to the whole process, and to the the consumer—so we’re farming for the end result of making a good wine, not just the tons of grapes that we get paid for.”
Ed’s engineer mind has served his vineyard and his wine very well. Throughout the tour, he shared so much knowledge on grape varietals, how different microclimates affect wine, and most interesting to me was learning about the meticulous techniques he has developed over his 22 years farming Muns Vineyard. His process and expertise have been essential to crafting the big-flavored wines that Muns produces.
We got a glimpse of this process, but one simply cannot fathom the effort that goes into farming these 16,500 grapevines. It was a real treat to learn about, especially while sipping on the product of every step taken.
Interesting Muns facts:
1. Ed and two of his men spend two 10 hour days spreading 15 miles of bird netting over each vine. Birds love the fruitiness of grapes, and no other technique has saved his grapes from birds.
2. The gopher traps set throughout Muns catch 6-12 gophers per day. Roots aren’t a source of food for gophers, but these critters will eat through the roots to build their tunnels.
3. Each end post at Muns displays the clone number that the Europeans assigned to it and the number of each North American native rootstock.
4. To defend against the fungal pathogens that live in Santa Cruz Mountain vegetation, Ed and his team keep and train two of the “suckers” (or latent chutes from the trunk) on each plant, so that in case the it gets a particular fungal disease and starts dying, Ed can cut off the original trunk and train another trunk is in place, thus not risking loss of the plant. Many vineyards find suckers undesirable and remove them all.
A special part of this tour experience was the vertical tasting between Left Bend’s Pinot and Muns Pinot, both made from Muns grapes. I asked Gary what sets the two wines apart from each other.
“The biggest difference is Left Bend uses about 25 percent whole cluster and French Oak,” he said. “Muns does not use whole cluster and uses Hungarian Oak. Whole cluster adds earthiness, spice and a different tannin profile. Both have dark cherry fruit. Muns may be more cherry fruit-driven and pure. Left Bend adds the earthiness from the whole cluster fermentation.”
Back in 2011 on this blog, Gary wrote about his first experience touring Muns during harvest. The post details much of what makes Muns Vineyard and wines so distinctive, and how Ed and Mary pour their passion into their craft.
“I volunteered to help a few days harvesting grapes,” Gary told me. “I had just planted my backyard vineyard in May of 2009 and was looking to learn about vineyards so I called around and looked for volunteer opportunities. I later started buying fruit from him when I started Left Bend.”
It’s significant to note that when Gary wrote the recap on his experience at Muns seven years ago, the last line in that piece says, “Perhaps next year I will get my hands on some of their exquisite fruit and make it sing in new and different ways.”
He certainly did just that.
This year, Left Bend will be getting Muns Syrah for the first time. Stay tuned for the wine to come!
If you’d like to be notified about the next exclusive vineyard tour, become a Left Bend Wine Club member.