These last, agonizing days of waiting for the call that the grapes are ready remind me of those last, agonizing days of pregnancy. Each morning, you wake up, feeling that you can't wait one more minute for this unknown thing to happen -- but also that maybe one more day might be nice, so you could clean everything a last time; or re-fold the blankets and teeny clothes in the drawer; or run down your list of to-dos and make sure they're all done.
We are preparing for the birth of our first vintage.
Making a Life
Shocking - stunning, even - is the leap from the innocence of dreaming what parenthood might entail, to the recognition of "I didn't know it would be like this!" As prepared as you think you are in your mind, when the physical reality is a new, helpless person who didn't previously exist, for whom you now have full responsibility, an instantaneous shift takes place. You no longer belong solely to yourself. A piece of you now lives -- irrevocable, and exquisitely vulnerable -- outside your body.
While becoming a winemaker obviously isn't quite as dramatic, it doesn't seem so different from becoming a parent. You can taste a difference between wines made personally, with passion, and industrially produced "product." Much of that difference is in the methodology. Beautiful wine comes from winemakers who truly care about the vines, the fruit, the process, and the wines as living entities who won't necessarily follow a proscribed schedule.
The best winemakers we know let the fruit speak for itself, and stay in the background as much as possible, while gently guiding it to greatness. Like parenting, it's not all about manipulating your child to make your own mark on the world. If parents do a good job from the start, the odds are greater that their children will end up shining and succeeding on their own.
(Even More) Ready for the Crush
So, where are we this week in the garage? Well, as we anticipate a heat wave hitting the Central Coast next week, which just may push our fruit to the point ofphysiological ripeness, I can tell you we're now the proud owners of the following equipment:
- Food-grade plastic shovel: Shovels the grapes from the picking bins into the crusher-destemmer; the destemmer will separate the berries from the stems and neatly deposit each of those in different bins/buckets.
- Refractometer: Since we're not growing our own fruit (yet!), our winegrower friend didn't think we'd need this particular item, which measures the amount of Brix (sugar) in grapes before they're crushed. (By winegrower, I mean he grows his own grapes, manages his own vineyard, and makes his own wine.) However, Jody's a detail guy, and he wants to start out the fermentation log with his own Brix readings on the fruit when we pick it up. Plus, we know these people who live nearby who grow grapes (and don't use them for anything), and it might be kinda fun to make some local native-yeast-fermented jug wine... so really, you never know when you might need your own refractometer.
- 2 - Half-ton fermentation bins: For fermenting the fruit. We're planning a 2-to-4-day cold soak after bringing the Grenache home in a refrigerated truck, so it'll stay nice and cold after Lino's crew hand-picks it the night before.
Le Garage ... il est humble, mais il fonctionnera
(and yes, I used Google Translate, so if it's a clunky translation - well, I'm putting French lessons on my to-do list.)
Thanks for reading - stay tuned. We're estimating our "due date" around the 25th, but anything can happen at harvest time. We'll keep you posted. If you're not doing so already, you can follow me on Twitter at @emilyldt for more real-time updates (and occasional haiku). Enjoy your week, everyone!