I’d have paid more attention in High School Chemistry if I’d known I’d be forced to use so much of it in winemaking and other agricultural endeavors here at Two Terrier Vineyards.

Not that I’m doing that many of the various science experiments that seem to be required of winemakers. Andy handles that, as well as staring in bemusement at various pieces of machinery and occasionally tweaking them. That frees him up from all the grunt work of scrubbing, washing and sulfiting that seems to fall on my shoulders. The big task that seems to be mine is the thankless job of standing above the crushpad and, handful by handful, dropping grape clusters into the crusher/destemmer. When I think that in the past week I’ve done that to 3/4 of a ton of Mourvedre and 1/2 ton of Grenache, I understand why my back is aching. In spite of these gripes, our new crushpad and improved workflow has really taken a lot of the brute force and ignorance out of the way we are processing grapes.

You wouldnt believe how much chemistry goes into wine making. Heres Andy The Mad Scientist in his lab. . . er fermentation shed.

You wouldn’t believe how much chemistry goes into wine making. Here’s Andy The Mad Scientist in his lab. . . er fermentation shed.

But apparently there will be even more chemistry when we start processing the olives. The food grade lye we need is a substance controlled by Homeland Security and other agencies. You can use it to start your own Meth lab!

But apparently there will be even more chemistry when we start processing the olives. The food grade lye we need is a substance controlled by Homeland Security and other agencies. You can use it to start your own Meth lab!

Oh, and finally finding a crew of Mexicans has been a godsend. Forget that old canard that Mexicans are taking jobs away from Americans. Believe me, there are NO Americans lining up to pick grapes in the hot Sonoma sun. But even if there were, no American could do a better job than these guys. Even at your fittest, with three bowls of Cheerios in you and a full night’s sleep, there is no way you could pick as fast and efficiently as a crew of Mexicans. Andy and I were feeling pretty good about picking less than one quarter of a ton of Cinsault in three hours or so. My crew of Mexicans blazed through 1/2 ton of Grenache and 3/4 ton of Mourvedre in about an hour each. And that’s with more selective, careful picking that bruised not a single grape. Since the work was only an hour, I had to pay top dollar for what was the going rate. They were worth three times that much.

Cabernet seems to take longer to get established. Our Cinsault, Mourvedre and Grenache were already yielding big juicy bunches. The Cab is still the 98 pound weakling on the beach.

Cabernet seems to take longer to get established. Our Cinsault, Mourvedre and Grenache were already yielding big juicy bunches. The Cab is still the 98 pound weakling on the beach.

Not to mention that some sort of critter is stripping the vines and having a feast on our Cab. I hope its not a deer that has breached the perimeter fence. Most likely its foxes.

Not to mention that some sort of critter is stripping the vines and having a feast on our Cab. I hope it’s not a deer that has breached the perimeter fence. Most likely it’s foxes.

The status report is that our Cinsault is in secondary fermentation and doesn’t need my help for awhile. The Grenache has just had yeast added and is bubbling away. The just-picked Mourvedre is resting and waiting for some added yeast and nutrient food. Both are going to need three times a day punching down, temperature monitoring and checking of specific gravity levels. That means another week for me up here on the frontier.

I think we dodged the bullet on this threatened storm. We had a few sprinkles, but nothing too bad. Rain this late in the growing cycle can be dangerous if it stays so wet that mold grows on the grapes before harvest.

I think we dodged the bullet on this threatened storm. We had a few sprinkles, but nothing too bad. Rain this late in the growing cycle can be dangerous if it stays so wet that mold grows on the grapes before harvest.

Did you notice that one of my Bucket List items (see the right hand column of this blog) is to grow all my own food for a year? I’m off to a good start even with just three tiny raised beds and without a clue. Tonight for dinner we had a tomato and lemon cucumber salad and a corn and red pepper side dish all from our garden. Our pork tenderloin was from a local Sonoma pig, marinated and sold by the excellent Sonoma Market. The 100 mile diet INDEED.

Just call us Locavores! Part of our dinner bounty harvested from the raised beds.

Just call us Locavores! Part of our dinner bounty harvested from the raised beds.

In fact, Andy, musing on our farm dinner, wondered if maybe we should think about raising pigs. All I could hear was the voice of an old high school friend of mine. When we reconnected a few years ago and I told him of the drastic redirection my life was taking, I asked him if he thought I was crazy. His response: “Well, farming, even chickens and goats, seems reasonable. But when you start talking about pigs, you’ve crossed some sort of line.”

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