I switch on the lights and turn off the alarm. The next thing I do, and this is very important. I open the garage doors. This is because we have six fermentations roaring in the cellar. The carbon dioxide produced by the yeast fills the air mingled with aromas of banana, milk chocolate and rising bread. These aromas are pleasing but a constant reminder that our precious oxygen has been replaced with deadly C02. If I were to fail to open said doors, I may very well fall into a deep sleep of which there is no return. No worries, I am diligent in my personal safety.I was up at the crack of dawn. I popped a piece of toast and a fried egg down my gullet before heading out the door. The drive down the road is peaceful. The whole world is bathed in the half light between night and day. I listen to NPR to hear the latest news around the world, turns out it is supper Thursday pledge day. With guilt I switch the station off assuring myself I will make a pledge when I have more money. Finally, I am at the winery.

The previous night Thomas set everything up to fill barrels with the exotic Carmenere we are known for producing. In a few minutes I am happily filling a dozen barrels. When I am about half finished, my faithful assistant Thomas arrives. He quickly gets to work doing the punch downs and prepping the press and crush pad for the various tasks we fulfill throughout the day. Before the end of the day we will have filled barrels, pressed five tons of Merlot and crushed three and a half tons of Cabernet Franc. In addition we will have hosed everything down, often times ourselves either on accident or on purpose. I find a brisk shot of water to the face keeps you on your toes. At the end of the day the cellar floor is glistening wet all the equipment is shinny clean in preparation for the next day’s labor.

We stand in the cellar looking spent, covered in a combination of wine, grape juice and yeast. Our hands are stained purple. Purple hands brand us as proud members of the “Order of The Purple Hand”.  With a big sigh Thomas asks what time tomorrow. I decide we can come in a half hour later. That extra little bit of sleep seems like a little thing but it’s the little things that make the difference in the quality of the wines. I always talk about the grapes and the sense of place the vineyards exhibit but, one of the biggest things that make wine special is the human element. Do me a favor, the next time you take a sip of wine think about all the work that went into that bottle from the vineyard to the cellar, it will make you appreciate it even more.


Ryan Raber


Tertulia Cellars