Friday, September 19, 2014

The Harvest that Never Started



Do you ever start a day and just feel rudderless?  Aimless?  Like you’re just not sure what you’re doing that day?  And I don’t mean a hang-over induced feeling.  I mean, you’re walking around and just not sure what you should be doing.

OK, so this was me about twenty years ago.  On a major life-scale.

But I’m feeling like it today again, for about the twentieth day in a row.

Let me back up a little.  Every year, sometime around late August, I start the annual ritual we refer to as crush.  Harvest.  When we pick the grapes and make the wine.  It’s my favorite time of year.  I used to hate the fall when I was younger.  It meant that summer was over and I had to go back to school.  And, growing up in Kansas, it meant that we had about three days of “fall weather” before all the leaves fell off and I had to start wearing my heavy winter coat.

Now, living in one of the most special spots in the world for growing grapes—affectionately referred to as “Brogundy”—I’ve come to look forward to this time of year as vocational raison d’etre.  I’m not sure what I’d be without my winemaking.  It’s what makes me whole.  Gets me up in the morning when I’d rather be sleeping.  Puts food on our table (and wine.)

Yet this year is different.  The winter was unbearably cold.  The spring was cool and wet and late.  Summer came around, but only lasted a few weeks total (as far as the temperatures are concerned.  The late summer has had a welcome dryness to it, and yet the grapes are still clinging fast to their stems.  The sugars are slowly rising, ever so slowly, and the flavors are tracking right with them.

But is it all too late?  This is the coolest year in the past decade.  The only years cooler than 2014 have been 2003 and 2000.  Two of my least favorite years ever. 

Every year I determine that harvest is over when we put the press away.  In 2003 it was after Thanksgiving.

You see, the way harvest works is that each year we do roughly the same amount of labor (each of us.)  And the endpoint for when the grapes come off is almost always about the same time (end of October to early November).  But what is always variable is when the harvest starts.  Sometimes it’s in late August.  When that happens we have about ten weeks to get everything done.

Sometimes it’s like 2014, where it’s looking like we have six weeks to get ten weeks worth of work done.  Or, maybe if harvest doesn’t really start till next week, only five weeks. 

I think I can plan on not sleeping much in the next month.