Harvest snuck up on me again. I’ve been doing this long enough to know when the first grapes will come in, but each year I’m still surprised. Harvest is holy. Harvest is hard. Harvest is healing.
The senses are the winemaker’s greatest tools. The ability to smell and taste and remember what you’ve experienced from barrel to barrel are crucial in putting together consistent wines.
Outside influences, like Brettanomyces, a spoilage yeast that lives everywhere in the winery, can get in the way of the true expression of fruit and vineyard and the intent of the winemaker. Being clean in the cellar is the easiest way to keep Brett and other malign bugs at bay.
Between every barrel, we spray a 70% ethanol solution on the thief, that metal tube in the accompanying photo, that we use to steal a little wine out of each barrel.
We draw wine out into our glass, smell, taste, make notes, then sterilize the thief before it goes into the next barrel. Think of it as the prophylactic use of prophylactics…a condom for our Cabernet.
As the 2020 harvest fast approaches, we are busy in the cellar making our first official evaluations of the 2019 wines. We devote about an hour a day making detailed notes on each barrel in a specific lot, thinking about where that particular barrel may ultimately end up.
The cellar is always full of changing mysteries, and this view of ladders and staircases (Escher-like) reminds us of the ups and downs of all artistic endeavors.
I was working on my book late at night on my patio – Miles Davis on the speaker – and had a glass of Mia Nipote’s Il Rinnovo to accompany me. Unplanned, they all worked together so well. Miles, light but deep, Il Rinnovo (a blend of Petite Sirah and Cabernet) deep like the upright bass but balanced so that it sang…full-throated to be sure.