And just like that, the day suddenly comes where you find your wine is going dry and a decision about how and when you should siphon the juice from the bin and the choice of vessel you plan to rest it within is upon you. I thought I had all my cards in place with the extra keg and carboy to hold the overflow of my press wine, but I never knew that the big press requires much more than a ½ ton of fruit to do its job. I had to make a decision. I could either press on a day when the last of two varietals were set to press and use their pomace buildup to press against my own fruit or I could wait and use a traditional water basket press that was entirely manual.
When you’re working with mother nature, you want to guide without control because inevitably, you don’t really have control anyway, and so, making wine is somewhat akin to driving blind. So many factors can contribute to a wine’s direction and you just have to blindly follow along and keep it from driving over the edge of a cliff. Given the changes fruit can go through on its path to becoming wine, I now understand why a winemaker wants and needs to be near her fruit every day.
It’s been an entirely new experience to be in Ed’s winery and to have fruit of my own there. I remember the day I forklifted my Aglianico inside to be destemmed, the other interns and custom crush winemakers looked at and tasted the berries with curiosity given that it was an entirely new varietal.
I am fortunate to have such a wholehearted team of folks to be guided by. From tips on forklifting to winemaking approaches; it has brought a new sense of awareness of myself and prompted me to ask more questions. It also ignited a sense of community; it is through them that I feel more self-sufficient, visible and confident. I have learned to ask questions without fear and poignancy. And I have come to look to these folks for their insight, seeing them as family.
Last year, I attempted to secure fruit right at the beginning of harvest, which is the worst time to bother anyone in the wine industry since harvest is a very intense, if not frantic, time of year. Given my timing, the fruit from the vineyard I was most interested in had already been snapped up by another winemaker. The biggest takeaway for me from that experience was understanding the importance of getting arrangements involved with winemaking set up early on in the year. And so, when January of this year came around, I jumped on the right wine train to see if I could set to securing a small bit of Aglianico fruit from the one vineyard I reached out to last fall.
As we wind down winemaking lane, it’s funny the things you catch yourself missing once harvest is officially over and wine tasks dwindle down to small or random things. I find myself dealing with withdrawals of daily manual tasks, of being in direct contact with the support of a living substance (meaning, wine). Daily tasks really do give people a sense of purpose, reconnecting us with our innate need to help, support, guide and truly connect with something alive outside ourselves.
Happy End of Harvest, Everyone! While wine work continues, the bringing in of fruit is officially over at our winery. So, in light of that, and given that I’m working on this post days after the fact, I decided to combine the celebration of the last day that we received fruit in at the winery and the last day of pressing fruit along with few post-harvest tasks we’ve been chipping away at – all par for the course, and what an exciting course it’s been!
So,…I went into my first harvest a bit starry-eyed, thinking I would be able to secure a ½ ton of Aglianico fruit for my first barrel. Well, while I did get the thumbs up from two growers, neither worked out for reasons I’ll explain, but more importantly, I realized that securing fruit is really just the first step. Making sure you have the means to physically get it via a truck and then afford to have it custom crushed or partially so (if I help out with it myself) AND then find a temperature controlled space to store 30 or so cases is another deal entirely. Therefore, in the hunt for this great late-ripening red in October, I realized that I need to get my duckies in a row. And while I can now say I know how to make wine, there are still many decisions to make in the course of making wine that warrants another year’s worth of harvest experience.
I’m a sensitive person; I admit it – emotionally, but also physically, although the latter shines through immediately, while the former is somewhat hidden from others. Wine has been an amazing outlet for me in the physical sense. I recently realized, similar to the way the shape of a glass can affect the aromatic side of a wine, that this chemical reaction is actually applicable as an analogy for what an object absorbs and then either changes or immediately converts to emit something that is a product of its environment.
Whenever I get to learn a new winemaking task, I get really excited; I know, it sounds a little ridiculous, but you have to remember that all winemaking is like a story. There are no chapters you can skip. This week I finally got to learn about topping up barrels.