Week #1 as Wine Parents - Or, We Are Very Tired

When you have a baby, inevitably you live through a moment where the wonder and awe of the whole experience make way for the parenting emotion no one tells you much about beforehand: worry.

Is she still breathing? What is that weird-looking spot? Is her skin supposed to be this flaky? Why isn't she sleeping more? Why is she sleeping so much? She feels hot. She feels cold. Is everything

the right color? Does this smell like it's supposed to? Why do all the books say different things? Call the pediatrician and get some advice!

And so it goes for our first week as winemakers.

With a Little Help from My Friends
(or, A Day in the Life)

We have two half-ton bins of Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard Grenache, and one of Syrah, fermenting in our garage. We got through the processing day exhausted but thrilled -- much like childbirth. We get up at 4:15 each weekday morning to punch down, and check chemistry and temperature. (We are very tired.) It's all moving along just fine, and we'll likely be pressing and barreling the Grenache next week, and the Syrah a bit later.

Taking juice samples to check Brix at oh-dark-thirty

It all sounds so easy, right? Remember what I said about bliss shifting to worry? Now would be a good time to mention the many semi-neurotic and very important calls Jody's made this week to our -- what should I call Kevin? Winemaking mentor/coach/guru, perhaps? Bottom line: He's our wine pediatrician.

Kevin Law is a Santa Maria meteorologist-turned-winemaker who has a ridiculously insane palate (brown-bag tastings aren't even fair when he's around); a gentle and patient nature; and a world of experience, knowledge and skill, which he's graciously offered to share with us as we tackle this project. We owe him more than we can say. Thank you, Kevin. (Expect another possibly frantic call tomorrow. And the day after that.)

Words of Wisdom(?)

My college roommate, Carla, is about to have her first baby. She sweetly asked me for advice early in her pregnancy, and I told her one of the (few) things I know to be true about parenting, after a mere 10 years of experience. These little people come to us with their own stuff, I said. They arrive with their own personalities, and our job is to guide them -- and learn from them at the same time.

One book I read said it limits children's potential if you label them based on their strengths: the academic; the sports star, etc. While we won't be labeling our wine until it's absolutely mature and ready, we're already seeing its undeniable personality. We have our go-getter Grenache and our slow-and-steady Syrah -- and the beauty of it all is that we can taste, and taste again, and eventually blend it together so that the end results shine with the best of each one's strengths. No limits!

Punching the Grenache - foaming from fermentation's CO2 (the yeast eats the fruit sugar and produces alcohol and CO2).

Punching the Syrah - lots of CO2 as well, but cooler temps and slower ferment.

Good Times

The shenanigans continue around here - today we dragged the children to Home Depot for really exciting things like 1/2-inch poly flex tubing, a 6-foot hose to attach to the chlorine-removing water purifier we'll use to get the barrels ready ... fun times!

They're hoping to get into it - literally. Pigeage next week...

As the temperatures in all the bins are over 80 degrees, we're up to thrice-daily punchdowns now, on Kevin's advice. The kids have gotten in on the action. They seem to really like it, especially Elijah, 6. "Is it punchdown time?" he asks, many times per day. (Unfortunately, he's not so interested in the 4:15 a.m. punchdowns.)

I, however, am all over the 4:15 a.m. punchdowns. (I have lots of practice waking up early to tend to young'uns.)

Since the Grenache is moving so fast, we're planning on pressing and barreling it mid-week. This involves a lot of phone calls to the closest press-rental place, which actually isn't close by at all, and logistical strategies about testing our barrels for water tightness out on the street (since we don't want to annoy anyone), and lots of other things that keep us awake at night. It's OK, though, because this wine is going to be good. We're sure. And in parenting or winemaking, anytime you can be sure of something, anything ... it's a good thing.

Until next week!