Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Last Pick

With mixed feelings, I watched the last two bins of Silvaspoons Vineyards Kerry Lane Block Mourvèdre drive off to the winery, signaling the end of our harvest.

I was just getting used to my routine of waking up in the dark at five o’clock, wolfing down a pot of oatmeal and putting on the grubbiest, most hole-filled clothes I could find.

On my way to the vineyards, if I was lucky, I had enough time to hit Starbuck’s on East Kettleman Lane for a venti non-fat, no-foam latte with three packs of Sugar-in-the-Raw to jump-start the brain.

The main job for Nick and I has been to jump onto the bins on the back of a narrow tractor and frantically pull out leaves from the gathered grapes while moving, trying not to fall off. We just don’t want those undesirable “green,” herbal flavors.

At the same time, we would try and snap some photos or video for our Web site, knowing that nowadays marketing is almost as important as high-quality winemaking.

We got into a rhythm of taking a few pictures just before the whole crew began dumping yellow lug bin after bin into our half-ton bin. Seemed that each member of the crew filled their bin about the same time, so they all came back at once like a big dump truck.

No matter than the cameras became sticky with grape sugars, such that the zoom on one camera is jammed. I didn’t mind getting whipped in the face by long vines as the tractor drove through the rows, or having my glasses glaze over like a doughnut, making it hard to see.

I already miss the popping sounds made by hands yanking off grape clusters aching to be made into wine.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Panthos, The Next Generation

I was telling Jon, working with the wines every day is what it's all about. I can't get enough.

Then my son, Jonathon wakes up one morning two weeks ago and asks where I'm going. It's 7:00 in the morning which is pretty early for most 12-year olds. I explain my daily ritual of punch downs, brix readings, etc. and his eyes light up as he jumps from his bed asking, "Can I go? I want to do it too!" I haven't stopped grinning since.
Jonathon really likes to get into his work.

Today we have different lots at every end of the spectrum. Al Bechthold's Cinsault and our two Syrah's are almost dry, reading from 0.4 to -1.5 brix on the hydrometer. On the other end of the spectrum, we have one of Markus Bokisch's Petite Sirah's from Belle Colline that I just removed from a cold chill (52 degrees and 26.5 brix) that will begin its natural fermentation under the watchful eye (or should I say "eye's" now) over the next two days; and with our last crush of 2008, we're planning on harvesting Ron Silva's Mourvedre this Tuesday.

We're thankful the rains last night were light and any moisture is drying from today's breezes. But I'm really thankful for days like these, up to our arms, side-by-side in a beautiful Petite Sirah.
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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Our Bin Runneth Over

Every year we learn something new.

This year one of the tweaks we were getting ready to be proud of was the determination of exactly how much you could fill a one-Ton Macro T-Bin with crushed grapes such that they wouldn’t overflow during fermentation.

We filled a number of bins up to a line five inches from the top, and double-checked to make sure we had clearance.
Once fermentation hit its stride in a couple of days after warming from cold soak, copious amounts of very purple Petite Sirah juice began cascading down the sides of one of our bins.
This created enough of a mess that the cellar master repeated at least six times that he had to clean up everything and, “You are going to remove some of those grapes.”
Nick – who has been kindly doing all the punchdowns this year – went over the records to determine that the most obnoxious bin of Petite hadn’t even received its first helping of yeast nutrient yet.

So we have reset our maximum fill protocol to what should be an ample seven inches from the top. (Let’s hope that works or we're going to be wearing out the mop!)