The only thing you can count on with a grape harvest is that you can’t count on it. It’ll happen when it happens, usually at the most inopportune time. There is nothing you can do but stand at the ready, prepared to drop everything so you can pick and crush at a moment’s notice. Compound that by the logistics of having a vineyard in Sonoma when we still live in San Francisco. Then sprinkle in the complexity of one of us still having a day job. Finally top with the fact that as a tiny producer, we’re not exactly first in line to get the crews. What you have is a recipe for a “Keystone Kops” style situation. Lots of frantic running around, dubious results.
Actually, we’ve done all right so far. As I reported earlier, the Cinsault surprised us by suddenly hitting the Brix level that required immediate picking. Despite not having our crush pad completely finished or all our equipment sorted, Andy and I managed to get all of it picked, run through the crusher/destemmer and into the primary fermentation vat on Sunday. With no crews and just a couple of terriers for help.
Before I pat myself on the back too much, I should mention that the Cinsault is just a blending grape and accounts for the tiniest amount we’ve planted. Since Andy doesn’t do anything by half measures, we’re not just growing the Cabernet that is typical for this area. He insisted on Rhone Style varietals (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault). And of course, Cabernet which will be our cash crop. Hopefully selling half of it will cover the cost of the operation. The point is, every one of these grapes matures and ripens at a different pace. Which means we’re going to be in “stand by and panic” mode well into October.
Which brings me back to the Cinsault, which true to form, decided to “come due” just as Andy was headed to an international sales conference. Which means it’s me and the terriers manning the farm here. We’re doing all right so far. Although I have to admit, it’s a little scary up here alone. Both terriers hid under the covers all night as strange sounds (owls? coyotes? Bigfoot? Chupacabra?) echoed around the barn. Then it was up early to check on the Cinsault, punch down the crust and see how the fermentation was coming along. Thank goodness, the new crush pad setup includes primary fermentation bins that are more than “terrier jump height”. During the last crush, our founding terrier, the late lamented Charlie, marched by with new bright red fur. He’d leaped into the vat, adding new meaning to the term terroir.
Yes, I’d say Lucy, Oscar and I are holding our own here. But that could all change this afternoon when I head out to the vineyards with the Spectrometer to see how the other grapes are coming along. Pray that nothing else is screaming, “Pick ME!”
PS. Managed to take the specific gravity reading without really understanding what specific gravity is. Now that I’m at the Barking Dog Internet Cafe, I can look it up. And of course the Brits, at a site called The Wine Pages, have a slightly snarky explanation for it:
“Specific gravity is a clever sounding word that essentially means density. Density of wine relates to the amount of sugar dissolved in the wine.
Gravity is measured in degrees. A device for measuring gravity is called a hydrometer. Water has a gravity of 1000 degrees. Obvious isn’t it?
The gravity of wine increases as you add sugar. The gravity falls as the yeast eats the sugar. The alcohol produced is less dense than water. Your finished wine should have a gravity of somewhere between 1010 and 990. This means pleasently sweet and pretty dry respectivly. If your wine falls below 990 it tends to become so dry it doesn’t bear thinking about.”