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!

The last day that we got fruit in was for Theopolis Vineyards – the Petite Sirah (of which a couple of bins were designated for Phil’s Highlawn Petite Sirah) and also the Lazare Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, which Adam primarily uses for his Hersly label and Ed contracts out a few bins for his own Sandler label.

We definitely went out with a bang given that the fruit we received was also the most fruit we had coming in on a single day at the winery. Destemming that day was definitely one for the books, so much so that Dave, myself, and Taka arrived in two shifts. Taka was with Ed from 5am to 11am and Dave and myself with Ed from 11 until 8 or so at night. Poor Ed! Such a long day for him! But true to form, Ed always showed grace and kindness even under long hours of work and a lack of sleep.

I wanted to personally take the bull by the horns today so that I could test out what I had been learning with regard to the steps to take when you receive fruit. So when we got the bins of Petite Sirah in and weighed, I flew into action to assist with as many steps as I could that included, applying the pin to the forklift, making sure to ready bins for the next raining of fruit from the destemmer, applying colored-coded pieces of tape to barrels for correct labeling, making mixtures of water and SO2 to add to each bin of fruit, pallet-jacking full bins of destemmed fruit into the cold room, wiping down bins that got splashed with juice, and CO2’ing each new bin for the night to create a protective blanket over the fruit. I got into a definite rhythm and received a two-thumbs up from Ed at some point when he said, “Karen, you got this down”.

Well, this part anyway…as I’ve mentioned before, although I now understand the steps and basics of making wine, I need to step in closer next harvest to learn more about the nuances of working with a particular varietal and vineyard. Exciting stuff to look forward to in any event! I kind of wish I could fast forward to next year’s harvest.

Overall, our last day of destemming was a long and intense one. Phil opted to do a unique dumping of whole cluster into a partially destemmed bin of Petite Sirah by simply pulling the destemmer away from the hopper and positioning the bin under the hopper to catch the remaining whole clusters of fruit. It was sort of hilarious to see big clusters of fruit flying out and Phil working like a wild cartoon to make sure they dropped into the bin.

As the day moved into the early evening, and the fruit had all been destemmed and the washing/Cleanskinning of bins, the equipment and the floor was happening, Phil offered to break for a moment to bring out a little Champagne to celebrate the final day of receiving fruit, plus we just need to pause and reflect on the entire harvest so far. It was such a nice moment – thanks, Phil!

Okay, back into the wine time machine we go, but this time we travel into the future! Fast forward at least to November 9th – we just pressed the last few bins of Cabernet Sauvignon that Ed and Adam allowed to go through a longer maceration period. With bins macerating a bit longer, it’s important to keep out as much oxygen as possible. Ed likes to tautly wrap plastic around the bins’ lids for this short period of time. On the day of pressing, I tore off the plastic and popped open the lids and thought for a moment that the fruit smelled like lacquer; however, that only lasted a few seconds and the rich aroma of the Cabernet immediately started emanating from the bins. Pretty heavenly!

Now that things were less hectic and we only had a few bins to press, I watched more closely to how the wine was siphoned out of the bin by the big bullet and hose that went into a prepared barrel. It had to be a slow process since wine doesn’t like to be moved too fast from the receptacle that it has called home to a new one that is foreign to it. After the barrels were filled, we “walked the line” which means we disconnected the hose from the bullet and started to lift it enough to “walk” the remaining wine out through the hose so as to feed it into the barrel. This avoids wasted juice and mess on the floor. The rest of the process was business as usual in terms of dumping the fruit via the forklift and cleaning the press.

It’s hard to believe that all the handling of fruit is now over and the juice is quietly settling into its temporary new home, developing slowly. From this point on, it’s all about wine maintenance via tasks like topping, checking for leaks in barrels, adding SO2 as necessary to keep the wine healthy, pulling samples, and finally, racking when the time is right so as to bottle. I’m sure there’s more wine maintenance that happens in this barrel aging period, but I’ll have to ask or stick around to learn more.

One thing is for sure – things are much slower and quieter now. But I’m glad I can avail myself to Ed for some of these tasks which seem to pop up with a certain urgency because of their necessity. So if I wasn’t able to make myself available at this point, I’d miss something that I could experience. It’s kind of like making sure you’re always up early enough to catch the sunrise. And although the sun rises every day, every sunrise is different. I hope to continue to work at Ed’s side for as long as he needs me post-harvest, tending to his flock of barrels like a quiet little shepherd.