Friday, May 22, 2009

Sticky is the Harvest

The sun is full in the sky on harvest day and the clusters of fragrant Pinot Noir are forked gently into the hopper of the de-stemmer. Here they meet a spinning cylinder whose small holes grasp the grapes and pick them free, spitting grapes one direction and stems the other. Most are whole, some are crushed, and the slurry drops through a shaft of sunlight into the vat below.

I stand close to the vat and crane my neck to watch the grapes tumble out. The sweet, slightly funky aroma wafts over the side and catches my nose, which twitches and sniffs uncontrollably. I am led by my nose in all things. A few drops of grape juice spray out over the side and land on the ground – again my nose leads me and I lap them up. Delicious. There is nothing so sweetly complex as fresh harvest pinot noir juice. Mmmm…tastes like a great harvest to me!

The Wine Man is sticky to the elbows with grape juice from reaching in and removing the errant stem or stray ladybug who forgot to fly away. Crush is messy. His shoes are making a “squinch, squinch” sound, filled with water from spraying down equipment, the driveway and everything around him. He is wet, with bathtub fingers, for weeks at harvest time.

I don’t really like to be wet, unless I’m swimming in the pond or I’ve found a mucky puddle to roll in. Being sprayed by the Wine Man is too much like having a bath, which I hate because it washes all the good smells away and replaces them with icky fake flowery smells from the bottles. Yuck! So, I move away from the vat, hoping he won’t notice I’m now as sticky as everything else.

Two friends are on the back of the flatbed truck forking the grapes into the de-stemmer. It takes very good friendships to sustain this backbreaking work for hours at a time. The Wine Man’s friends are tight. There’s no one else on the farm to help with this other than the Wine Wife and she’s not forking grapes for anyone!

One by one the vats are filled and trundled into the wine barn where they sit cool and dormant for a few days. They call this cold soaking and it helps make the wine a deep, dark color. The stems are carted off to compost. Nothing is wasted. In a few days the real fun begins, a roiling witch’s brew of rotteny smells, alcohol rising, and sweetness tapering off, pungent for 50 yards in all directions of the winery. I can’t wait!