Harvest & Crush

I got working so late in the barn I forgot my #WineWednesday post: harvest and crush of the Syrah, or at least what survived the Great Mockingbird Attack of 2014.

After rolling up the nets, harvested and crushed all the Syrah in early morning/late evening Wednesday. The Zin is holding for a couple of days.

Now starts the sleepless period where grape must is checked and punched several times a day.

The Juggle

The next few weeks are all about juggling.

The Syrah, what hasn’t been devastated by birds that puzzled out the vineyard netting, was sitting at 23 brix last night, so I’ll be starting the routine of collecting and cleaning the various bits and pieces of harvest: the crusher destemmer, the fermentation barrels, all the way down to the buckets used for collecting the fruit off the vines. ETA for crush: sometime this week.

Crush is followed by the primary fermentation period, when my life seems to be spent largely in the barn, punching caps and monitoring wine chemistry at all hours of the day and night.This goes on potentially for weeks, depending on whether I am able to pull all of the fruit at once or not, before the wine is pressed and sealed off for racking.

It’s a long and involved process, and it’s hitting just as the workload is picking up in Sotto Voce and work-related responsibilities.

The proofreader’s edit arrived this weekend for my review, and I’m grateful to have a few weeks with it due to time constraints that are only exacerbated by the fact that I have a harvest to bring in. Since my typical work day has been running at about 14 hours lately, this is going to be interesting.

Cork art

I love wine corks. Some are direct, and to-the-point: the winery name, maybe a phone number or a URL. But some wineries really make the effort to express themselves on their corks, treating them as an extension of the bottle art, and I love it.

Please, not rain.

Wait, what? California’s in the midst of a prolonged, severe drought. Shouldn’t I be welcoming rain, praying for rain, maybe doing a little ran dance?

Not with a vineyard that’s nearly ready for harvest, nope.

After threatening rain for days, the skies finally opened up into a rainstorm tonight —just a week or two before I start pulling the first of the Syrah grapes off the vines. The Zinfandel looks like it will be a couple of weeks after that. And with maturing grapes on the vine, the last thing I want is rain, because moisture hitting that fruit can result in mildew and mold right before crush.

So tomorrow morning, I’ll be blow drying the vineyard… with a leaf blower.

Wine judges


I’ll never know how some people can identify wine blindly like everything about them, even place a wine in a year, like, have you seen isles and isles of wine and that’s just a fraction of all the wines in the world, I couldn’t even remember that many different people.

I was a judge in a wine competition recently, and the lead judge for our panel was one of these people. “I know this wine,” he’d say, and then name a wine. We were tasting blind, of course, but at the end, we asked for the ID on a couple of the wines he called out and sure enough, he had them right. Blew us away.

Me vs. nature

It looks, feels and sounds — yes, sounds — like rain is headed my way. That should be great news for drought-stricken SoCal, right?

Not if you grow grapes. 

The fruit is already turning shades of muted-to-deep purple, and a rain storm this morning means I’ll be out there with a leaf blower this afternoon, trying to dry off the fruit. Yes, the fruit gets blow-dried.

I spent yesterday draping the vines in netting, protecting my Syrah and Zin from the birds. Today, I may be blasting them with air, protecting them from the elements.