The harvest has finally begun. And as it happened last year, the Cinsault was the first of our varietals to ripen. Which is a good thing since we’ve planted very little of it. It’s a gentle beginning before the tons of Mourvedre, Grenache and Cabernet get going. Further good news is that we kind of know what we’re doing by this point. Or, at the least, we have better equipment. So up at the crack of dawn Sunday for the harvest. Just us two. And some terriers for comic relief.

A bit of background: Cinsault (pronounced San-So) is a traditional Rhone blending grape. I have seen one or two single varietal Cinsaults around Sonoma, but mostly, since it’s pretty sweet, it’s used to give a little balance to a Rhone blend that is mostly Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and/or Merlot. The predominate nose is supposed to be strawberry. I can tell you that was NOT the dominant aroma of last year’s Cinsault. But hey, the vines weren’t mature yet and we didn’t really know what we were doing. We have higher hopes for this year’s harvest.

Unlike the tiny tanniny berries on Cabernet vines, Cinsault bunches are big, fat and sassy. With an almost sweet flavor right off the vine.

Andy cuts with the traditional mini-sythe grape cutter.

I have a different weapon of choice: kitchen shears. Yes, in the field, I can cut a bunch of grapes or bone a chicken. Julia Child would be proud.

I have a different weapon of choice: kitchen shears. Yes, in the field, I can cut a bunch of grapes or bone a chicken. Julia Child would be proud.

Meanwhile, once at the crush pad:

Heres our entire Cinsault harvest. About 400 pounds. Which is chicken shit in grape harvesting terms.

Here’s our entire Cinsault harvest. About 400 pounds. Which is chicken shit in grape harvesting terms.

So the bins are dropped off at the top of the crush pad. I sit on the concrete ledge here and drop the grapes, bunch by bunch, into the crusher/destemmer that you can just glimpse below. Andy then pours the crushed grapes into the big white primary fermentation vats, in the right of the picture.

So this whole dropping grapes thing. Well, it’s like picking 400 lbs of grapes all over again.

400 lbs. of grapes is a lot. Especially twice in a morning.

400 lbs. of grapes is a lot. Especially twice in a morning.

Terriers are no help at all.

Terriers are no help at all.

Once you have the crushed/destemmed grapes in a primary fermentation vat, its called a must. And you stir it. Youll keep stirring it up three times a day for about a week.

Once you have the crushed/destemmed grapes in a primary fermentation vat, it’s called a “must”. And you stir it. You’ll keep stirring it up three times a day for about a week.

After this point, Dr. Frankenwine retreated to his lab to do very complex things like testing acidity and calculating how much yeast and tartaric acid to add to the whole mix. It’s all a little beyond me, so that bit will have to wait until I can get the Mad Scientist to sit down and explain everything. Meanwhile, I discovered something alarming: a mouse invasion (the crush pad is outdoors after all.) Recently the mice had built a nest on the engine of the crusher/destemmer and one poor guy had crawled into an empty vat and died. Yes, all of these things were cleaned and disinfected before the crush! Although I’m told the French would just shrug and say “Eet ees thee terroir.” But this is America. So Andy devised an elaborate plastic and duct tape mouse barrier to go underneath the vat cover.

Take that Trixie and Dixie, Stuart Little and Tom and Jerry. No meeses in our wine.

Take that Trixie and Dixie, Stuart Little and Tom and Jerry. No meeses in our wine.

Time for clean up. This is where terriers come into their own. HOSE PATROL!

Time for clean up. This is where terriers come into their own. HOSE PATROL!

Oh, and all those stems that were separated from the grapes? Those go over the side of the hill for the deer. They love them!

Deer dont want no Cinsault. Just give them the stems!

Deer don’t want no Cinsault. Just give them the stems!

More pictures of the Cinsault 2009 Harvest and Crush here.

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