14 October 2010

What's a winemaker to do?

What a view!
So the grapes have been sampled and need at least another week or more, the harvest crew has arrived and the sun is shinning so what are a winery owner and her winemaker to do?  Why go frustrate ourselves, I mean go have a great time playing golf of course.  After a brief discussion in which we decided that stressing ourselves out over something we have no control, i.e. the unripe grapes, was not a good solution to the problem Mary announced that is was time for our annual Harvest Crew Golf Scramble.  I must admit that I was uncertain that this was great idea, albeit it wasn't the thought of walking around a beautiful course spending time with people I like but rather the thought that I haven't picked up a club since Mary broke her wrist last year.  And since I don't practice lets face it I'm lousy and the fact that my personality hates being lousy at anything means that as the game progresses I usually manage to get frustrated and thus lousier.  Does this sound familiar to any of you?  Well today I tried to not get frustrated and to keep reminding myself that this is supposed to be fun well at least the part about a great walk with friends.   The beautiful weather, great company and that we played best ball all contributed to a good day.  I might even have a little sunburn!

Di, Grape Squisher Extraordinaire
So back to the nitty gritty of winemaking.  I promised last week that I would better explain the sampling process which helps us to decide when to pick.  So here goes.  Yesterday Di, one of our harvest volunteers, yes, you too can volunteer, and I went out and walked the vineyard picking berries off the clusters.  We tried to pick a representative sample which means, for our vineyard, we pick 3 berries off a cluster from the top, middle and bottom, ideally without looking as your eye automatically tends to choose the ripest grape, walk down 5 plants cross the row and pick three more from that plant.  Then we do this every three rows except the small blocks which get every other row.  So in this way we slowly walk the vineyard, getting our exercise, checking on the quality of the fruit and at least in my case, enjoying the quiet before the mayhem of harvest.  The next step is to take our zip-lock bags of grapes up to the winery lab and squish them.   The juice is then drained into a jar and the testing begins.  I mainly test for three things: sugar, pH and titratable acidity.  Then I look at how many of the seeds have turned brown in the juice and finally taste the juice.  This step while it tends to be the last is key in the actual picking decision.  The flavors, both good and bad, showing themselves in the juice will also express themselves in the wine.  While we like the numbers to be right it is also important that the flavors are there.  A long ripening season like the grapes are getting this year definitely helps flavor development but if they never get ripe then we won't get to see that great wine.  I;m keeping my fingers crossed for the longest Indian summer ever!
Juice and a refractometer


  1. Another good lesson. Glad you enjoyed something while waiting on grapes to ripen:)

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