That Mother Nature, she can always throw you a curve-ball. We thought we’d dodged her bullet (which is coming in the form of cold blustery days just when we need our outdoor primary fermentation vats to stay warm.) But when you have half a ton or 3/4 ton of grapes in a large plastic container, it’s generating its own heat. Last night might have gone down to the chilly low forties, but at 9AM both vats were bubbling along at 80 degrees.
Now I go for the second punchdown, pull the lid off one of the vats and this:
The worst part that the picture can’t show you, the poor little guy was ALIVE. Alive and heaving and convulsing like. . .well, like you would be if you’d just leaped into a closed vat of more than half a ton of fermenting grapes that are just blowing out CO2. Either Mr. Field Mouse was on the worst bender ever, or he was in severe oxygen deprivation mode.
Before I outline the rescue of Stuart Little, let me tell you why, besides the “oooh, yuck, icky-poo” factor, this could be a calamity.
If you’ve been reading my posts, you’ve heard how obsessive we’re being about cleanliness and cross-contamination. Everything, but everything is washed in sulfite solution at every stage of the way: the punch-down tool, the thermometer, the cup I use to pull out juice for the specific gravity test. Plus my hands. Believe me, my hands have NO germs, wild yeast or unidentified spores on them. You can look at the cracks in them to get an idea how much and how many times they’ve been dipped in sulfite solution.
I’ve even been going to the extreme of re-sterilizing all the equipment between using them in the Grenache and the Mourvedre. So no Grenache cooties in my Mourvedre. At least not until we blend.
So with this level of precaution, now a substance-abusing mouse leaps right into my vat. He damn well better have washed his hands!
I have heard that the French don’t sweat these things. A few lizards, spiders and mice go into the crush? “C’est la vie. Eet ees thee terroir.”
So I decided to push down my blood pressure and take the high road. I tried to rescue the little sucker. He was in major convulsions by this point and I had to scoop him into a pyrex pitcher with a spoon. At first, I thought he could recover there, but he was still contained with the fumes of wine. It was clear, he needed some clear Sonoma oxygen in his lungs if he was ever going to make it.
I took him stealthily past the terriers, who were watching this whole process with great attention, but little understanding. Now neither of my terriers, to my knowledge, has ever killed anything other than a stuffed toy. Lucy is particularly crap at core terrier skills. She still thinks if she stands near a mole hole and barks REALLY LOUDLY AND REALLY LONG a rodent will suddenly say, “Oh that’s right, I’m supposed to come out and be caught.” Hasn’t happened yet.
But this mouse, who by this time was lying on his back and trying to run in the air, really looked like he might have taken a hit of acid before having the mother of all wine binges. There was a remote possibility that one of my dogs just might be able to catch him.
So I found a secluded spot behind the wine shed and put him in a little depression in the dirt. As I continued working on the wine, I’d check him every few minutes or so. He was slowly shaking it off, but I was still wondering if I was going to have to dig him a protective burrow for the night where he could sleep it off. Then I got focussed on checking specific gravity and lost track of time. When I checked again, he was gone.
He’s going to have a hell of a hangover in the morning.
NOTE: I think I’ve been as forthcoming as I need to be on this episode. No, I’m not going to say whether Stuart Little infiltrated the Grenache or the Mourvedre. Many of you, my loyal readers, will be getting gifts of Two Terrier Vineyards wine in a year or so. Let’s just say you’ll all be getting the “non-mouse” wine.