Thursday, October 15, 2009

2009 Harvest and Crush at SRV!

The air was crisp, the sky was blue, and it was a perfect day for harvesting and crushing grapes at Salinas River Valley in Atascadero, a micro-vineyard owned by our friends Kevin and Maryella.

Here's Maryella among the vines! Several friends joined them in pursuit of the best grapes on the lot.

And there were a "lot" of grapes!

Don and Diane picked from the vines along the driveway.

They had to contend with the ground beneath their feet consisting of random sizes of stones.

Also, they were generally reaching up in order to
get to the bunches.

But they picked the row clean, nonetheless, adding numerous buckets of grapes to the larger bins.

Harvesting wine grapes is dirty work!

You get slapped in the face with aggressive vines, cajoled by fellow pickers, and also sticky.

But if you have a sharp secateur (pruning scissor), it takes the edge off simple laboring!

Here is a photo of Maryella and Kevin's neighbor and friend Dave (R) next to their daughter Katie (L).

They're surrounded by buckets and bins full of Cabernet Franc grapes from the main part of the vineyard.

It's on a slightly terraced steep hill.

Some of the rows are on a wider flat patch of ground, and
are fairly easy to maneuver.

Other rows... not so much!

Getting down a sharp incline on sandy soil takes patience and skill while holding a cutting utensil and a huge pail filled with precious cargo.

Then there are those rocks.

Here is Marsha, a good friend of Kevin and Maryella.

They met while living in the same neighborhood in part of California's central valley.

Now, they all live here.

During this snapshot, Marsha's husband, Bob, was busy on another row.

You'll see a photo of him later in this post, during the "crush" part of the day!

Meanwhile, back amongst the vines, we were all picking beautiful bunches and occasionally
talking smack.

In the next photo, Kevin (R) is schooling me on the finer points of vineyard management.

Ron said I had the "grunge" look for that day's harvest.

But honestly, Sandra (my friend of many years), I was wearing the Wine

Therapy t-shirt that you gave me under my Kurt Cobain plaid!

Once we moved to this side of the vines, the sun became very intense.

I don't mind hot weather, I actually prefer it to cooler climes.

I did, after all, move from Wisconsin to California!

Okay, here is an example of a "perfect bunch" of Cabernet Franc grapes.

They're perfectly ripe, perfectly sweet, and

perfect for...

fermenting into WINE!

Why else would we labor under slave-like conditions, while tolerating the drastic temperature changes of California's central coast?

Why else would we risk life and limb carrying heavy pails of grapes up and down steep hills with scissors in our hands?


And here's the next step in making it.

Individual buckets of grapes get dumped into these big red bins.

The bins are hauled in Kevin's big truck up the steep hill to the garage area.

It's been functionally transformed into a mobile winery, complete with barrel room!

The crushing apparatus is a stainless steel piece of equipment.

Inside the bin of the crusher is a crankshaft-like rod containing relatively sharp paddles.

When engaged, the shaft turns, the paddles pull the grapes down, breaking the skins.

It also pulls the fruit off the stems and shoots the debris out a side chute.

Here, Ron and Bob are dumping grapes into the bin...

and they come out on the other end!

You can clearly see some brownish stuff among the purple grapes.

This is a combination of small leaves, parts of stems, spider webs, spiders, bees, bird talons, boll weevils and...

That's why winemakers use sulfites.

To make the wine safe to drink.

You know, as in standards for health.

So before you blame us for using chemicals, think about how much you love wine and how awful it would be to contract salmonella or E. coli from drinking your favorite wine because the winemaker refused to sanitize it!

And this is where we'll leave for today: the photo here is a white food grade bin filled with the "must" or grape pulp and juice.

Yes, some of those stems and leaves are still present.

(Again, see previous comment about sulfites).

The must smells delicious and heady, and the juice is so sweet, you can't believe it doesn't have added corn syrup, fructose or sugar!

Later, Kevin added sulfites, followed by "pitching the yeast," which of course accelerates the fermentation process.

In the next post, we will "punch down" the crust of the must! (Well, I will make a serious attempt at doing so, in any case).

Stay tuned, friends and wine lovers everywhere!

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