As we continually strive to move our winery, Centralas, in the direction of becoming a more ecologically thoughtful and environmentally beneficial winery, I became convinced that prickly pears need to be an important part of what we do and what we promote as Los Angeles based winery.
Prickly pears are native to Los Angeles and other parts of the South West, and have been tended and used here for thousands of years. The entire cactus is useful and edible. I foraged and picked them this year from natural areas all around LA, including some within walking distance of my home in South LA. Prickly pears thrive in marginal land without irrigation or chemical inputs of any kind. These are the kinds of fruits that we can build an environmentally positive and ecologically integrated local beverage culture on. A culture that isn’t imported, but that represents the unique local flavor of this land.
As you can tell, I couldn’t be more excited about the potential of incorporating prickly pears into wine.
Austin Glasscock, our guest for this episode, shares my enthusiasm. He’s making wine from prickly pears, and other wild fruit, in Sonora, Texas with his brand new winery called Wild Texas Wines. Austin is a marine who got into winemaking as a hobby after his military service, and found not only a love of fermentation, but a great excuse to get out into the natural world.
I was delighted to hear Austin talk about how he gathers fruit by hand, without equipment, with some serious risk, so as to move through the landscape as an animal would and leave a light footprint. I was inspired by his vision of staying small – wanting only to make a living and maintain a lifestyle that allows him to interact with nature daily.
The most amazing part is how much the wines Austin makes embodies his love of nature in every aspect of his process. The contrast to how we tend to make wines here in California is stark, and makes me thrilled to be able to share this unassuming and understated winemaker’s perspective.
We get into some pretty detailed technical specifics about making wine from prickly pears, which I hope will be part of a growing body of shared knowledge that others can learn from and add too. I hope that Austin and I and a few others are just the early adopters of what will become a much more popular kind of thinking about making wine ecologically from locally available wild fruit here in the South West where the summers are long, the sun is hot, and the water is more precious than gold.
In truth we aren’t early adopters at all. We’re the rediscoverers and revivers of a very old tradition.