Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Harvest Widows

It's now mid-October, 2010.  The first juice we received for this vintage was in early August.  (It was peach juice from our friends at Maple Lawn Farms for the wine we call Celeste......)  It's now over two months later.  Ray has had a few weekends off in the meantime.  I've had fewer.  We're tired.  We're sore.  We're a bit numb.

We're staring down the last week of harvest.  By this time next week, all of our fruit should be in the winery...barring any hurricanes, typhoons, or other acts of God.  The light at the end of the tunnel is finally visible, but it's a heck of a ways off. 

I read an article today in a newspaper from the Napa, Ca, area.  It was about the families of winemakers and what happens during harvest time.  One spouse out there coined a phrase--and started a support-group--for what she called "harvest widows."  These are the people who have chosen to spend their lives with us nutcases.  We know who we are.  The ones that think nothing of spending a Friday night unloading tons of Merlot, or a Sunday morning meditating on the pumpovers and punchdowns of red fermentations.  But it's a lonelier time for those whom we chose to spend our lives with. 

The article described us basically as human zombies with stomachs that need to be fed.  It's not far off the mark.  Some days are better than others, that's for sure.  But for the most part, we're tired.

And, yet, we come back every year for more.  I remember when Ray first started here.  He kept going to job interviews and posting his resume on Monster, etc.  But after that first harvest, the first crush of 2006, I could tell he was pretty hooked.  There's something about making wine, and working hard to make better wine, that gets into your blood.  Into who you are.  It becomes us.  It's what we do.

So, here's to all the harvest widows out there.  Especially, Kris, Cathy, and Marianne.  We'll be back soon.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


These past few weeks have been full of the crush.  Long days and long nights.

At one point last week, before the end of the night and after a couple days of it, we were feeling pretty beat.  We still had a few more tons to process, and the combination of fatigue, cold, beer, and darkness led to strange giddiness.

I asked my good friend Nelson--of Karamoor fame, who had just brought some Merlot--why we do this.  Why do we out ourselves through this small bit of insanity?

"Because it's what we do," he said.  And he's right. 

Some may go on, waxing poetic about how the wine drives them to make it.  Some may just be going through the paces of employment.  But for some of us, it's just what we do.  What we have to do.  Because it's who we are. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October Tough-ness

So, we live here on the right side of this country, and we grow grapes here.  We've been doing it unsuccessfully for a few centuries, but recently we've started to get it right.  One of our chief concerns has always been the onslaught of hurricanes and tropical storms near harvest time.  And this year is no different.

The timing of these past few systems (Nicole, etc.) has been pretty good.  We have most of our early and mid-season varieties in, and the late season varieties are still hanging tough out there.  Our beautiful season is still in the works, and it's still looking good.  It's this toughness that make it all work for us.

Our late varieties--primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc--originate from a maritime climate (Bordeaux).  They are red varieties that have fairly tough skins, leading to the higher proportion of tannins in the resulting wine.  This toughness leads to a very good resistance to a lot of the rots that plagued East coast grapegrowers for years.  It also comes into play with end-of-season rains.

There's a harvest theory that you should wait at least three days after each rain to let the water move out of the vines.  There are competing theories as to whether the rain water moves into the berries through the roots or through the skins of the grapes.  Some recent research at, I believe, Washington State shows that even if you pressurized grapevine roots with water and he water dripped out of the leaves but didn't enter the grapes themselves.

So, if you follow that line of thinking and think about our tough varieties, you'll realize how we don't worry as much as we used to about rain at harvest.  Sure, it messes things up a bit.  But for the tough-stuff we like to grow, we can laugh it off.  All the way to the cellar.