The first few rays of sunshine peek over the Blue Mountains as I pull up behind our winery. I step out of my car holding my keys in one hand and a latte in the other. Thank heavens for coffee on these early mornings of harvest. I fumble with my keys looking for the correct one. Finally I open the door and the aromas of fermentation permeate the air. I inhale deeply and say “I love the smell of fermentation in the morning”, it’s my little joke on most recognized quote from Apocalypse Now. I slide open the doors to the winery to help evacuate the CO2 from the air. I quickly check my emails to make sure there is nothing that requires my immediate attention. Next, it is time to set the mood so I turn on the sound system and play UB40 on Pandora. To my utter delight “Red Red Wine” plays and I know it’s going to be a good day.
Ryan Driver shows up early with a load of Syrah from Les Collines Vineyard. The grapes taste perfect. Once they are unloaded Driver hits the road to pick up Merlot from Phinny Hill Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills.
Quickly Sergio our cellar worker and I set up the crush pad and render the Syrah into crushed grapes. Each bin of grapes is placed in a 500 liter barrel called a puncheon, which have had their heads removed so we can conduct fermentation inside of them. Barrel fermenting will allow for a richer wine that has seamless integration with the oak barrels they are aged in. After we finish, we have enough time to clean up the worst of our mess and grab a bite before Driver shows up with the next load of grapes.
This time we set up to fill a stainless steel tank with the nearly three tons of Merlot. This is all conducted seamlessly while Marley belts out “Buffalo Soldier.” We are in the full swing of harvest. No need to yell out orders we all knows our jobs. While our hands are busy sorting the grapes we crack jokes