Greg La Follette - Harvest 2019

The Romance of Winemaking

Now that harvest is winding down, it is once more time to reflect upon just why it is that we hose-draggers pursue our own version of heaven: the romance of winemaking.

During harvest, there are numbers of activities and dress codes that sum up just how romantic winemaking really is:

  • Cleaning out a pneumatic press at 4 AM. This entails getting inside of a very tiny space about 4’ off the ground, hose and scrub-brush in hand while crouched on your knees, getting completely soaked from grape skins and water showering you as you work to get the last pips and grape pulp out of the press. Dress is casual, usually involving rain gear with a hood.
  • Getting to stay up all night to process fruit (see above) that you spent most of the previous night picking. Attire is casual but gum boots are mandatory.
  • Punching down. This aerobic endeavor involves clambering up on top of an open-top fermentor and using your back along with any other muscles you can recruit to push all of the solid grape skins that have migrated to the top of the ferment (called the cap) back into the liquid portion. Attire and accessories: punch-down stick mandatory but shirts optional, especially after your cotton Tee is soaked with sweat after the first 3 tanks.
  • Shoveling out fermentors. Involves jumping into a freshly-fermented tank of grape skins after the new wine has been drained off. “Easy” tanks have a man-hole at the front of the floor of the tank that facilitate removal of the pomace (drained grape skins); more advanced shoveling is found with dairy tanks, where every single shovel- or bucket-load – goes overhead and into the basket press. Clothing is optional if you are doing this activity solely with your S.O. at 2 AM while Jimmy’s “Foxy Lady” is blasting over the winery sound system. I could go on – showering off all the accumulated juice in your hair at 3 AM because your wife has accused you of sticking to the bedding the night before, during the 2 hours you were horizontal but you don’t remember because that was too long ago, that kind of thing – but I won’t. What I will tell you is that I DO love winemaking so very much precisely because it does have many challenges, both physical and mental. In what other profession can you and your fellow hose-hounds rise to the challenge of putting your backs into your work, Herculean in nature and, at the end of the day, say “Mates, we did it!” while toasting yourselves with the veritable fruit of your own labor in glass?

Actually, during harvest any toasting being done is usually with a good sudsy pint or two. After all, you are all day and most of the night working with wine, wearing wine, racking wine, picking pips out of your hair and naval at the end of the day – probably all you want is a good beer at that point, along with a warm meal, a hot shower and a comfy bed. The glass of Pinot comes later, when you remember the harvest and toast to the land that affords you the chance to translate its voice into liquid sunshine. At the end of harvest, the one thing we winemakers always wear is a grateful smile.

Vint with Humor,

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