To say that Aime Desponds is a Renaissance man is definitely an understatement. He is a winemaker, chef, painter and a skillful house builder using the medium of cob. We recently caught up with Aime after the recent wine harvest to learn more about how his winery Sol y Barro in the Guadalupe Valley came about.
BajaBound: What was the inspiration for starting a winery in Baja?
Aime Desponds: I was born and raised in Switzerland and wine has always been part of my culture and heritage. My family has been involved in the restaurant business for generations and so wine has always been a subject of discussion and veneration for most of my life. Moving to the Valle de Guadalupe after retirement became an opportunity to celebrate with great wines, and make wonderful new friends. The climate, the earth and the people's enthusiasm for wine making were the major factors that contributed to my own excitement. In my very first year, I did a barrel of wine using Grenache grapes.
BB: You essentially built the entire winery yourself by hand using cob. What goes into this method of construction and why did you choose this process?
AD: One day I realized that I could build my Winery with cob, so I started dreaming, sketching and doing a lot of thinking. Cob is a mixture of earth, clay, sand, straw and water, hand-worked into monolithic earthen walls. Cob enables you to make aesthetic and ecologic constructions with organic and beautiful forms. It is fun to play with and really makes you feel good and free.
BB: Prior to Sol y Barro you were a chef, and before that you studied to be a mechanical engineer. What got you into winemaking, building with cob and painting?
AD: My life has been a succession of adventures brought on by curiosity, the thrill of discovering new spaces, new occupations, new dreams and not leaving much room for other thoughts such as money or financial wealth. Retiring and moving to the Valley has been a great decision.
BB: Is there a story behind the amazing mural that you painted on the front of the winery?
AD: The large painting on north wall of the wine cellar is made with pigments on a wet lime surface like a frescoe. It is a romantic landscape, the expression of what I feel around me.
BB: The primary wine you produce is the Sol y Tierra red blend. What are the different grapes that comprise this blend and why?
AD: My wine is composed predominantly of dry-farmed Grenache grapes accented by Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah for fullness and balance.
BB: How many cases of Sol y Tierra will you be producing in 2012?
AD: This year a new cob building as been created with a large platform of 3 different levels to process several tons of grapes at one time, using gravity to move and clean the grape before fermenting and press to the next level. This year I have been able to make my production double and will have 500 cases of Sol y Tierra for 2013 to offer.
BB: Thank you Aime!
To learn more about Aime and his unique winery, visit the Sol Y Barro Website.