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It's the quiet moment after sunset when the world is tucking itself in and the night creatures are coming up to speed. There's a perfect swell on after days of doldrums and the sea is roaring a bass hello. I've parked the truck and trailer, both laden with bins for tomorrow's pick and I'm saying goodnight and farewell to the Malbec. There's the deepest purple glow in the West and a purity to the darkness, with the stars beginning to wink on in the moonless gloaming. I'm reviewing the past growing season as it morphs into its culmination with an uneasiness I can neither explain nor shake.

A dry dusty heat continues to rise off the dirt, despite the darkness. Summer is lingering on. The grapes taste delicious, but the crop is tiny -- we have made a tremendous effort for just a small amount of grapes. My mood has been shaped by the employment of the past few days -- cutting off raisined bunches and individual berries that have been burnt up by the relentless sun. It's reduced our low yielding crop significantly. We dance across harvest’s tightrope balancing the success of creating exquisite fruit with danger -- the paucity of return.

I trudge my way back home across the stubbly field, in a great quiet, punctuated by the sea’s susurration. When I reach the edge of the dried streambed, a coolness rises off the earth and resuscitates my spirits. I look up at Jupiter sprawled comfortably in the vast sky and breathe again. I see in that instant how thoroughly wrapped up I've been in business and other compelling concerns causing separation. I will myself to shift into gratitude for the harvest, for this place, my life filled with blessings, my family, friends, well-being.

Later, I rise in darkness and make my way back to the vines. I hear a Roo clippity-clopping in the obscurity. The slightest breeze like earth's exhalation carries a promising dampness. I smell grasses and peppermint and salt. The entire sky is dotted with a gazillion stars and the Sea is clapping and snapping and singing. And when I get into the vineyard open, Mercury and Venus and Saturn and Jupiter ride the moonless sky.

I free the nets and start them rolling. The crew yawns in and we set to work by headlamp, and as the daylight spools in, in come the pickers with their smiles and earnestness. I kneel in the first row and snip a bunch, which I offer to the land, the ancestors, the gods of this place and of wine, and then we all get stuck into it. We work as the light comes in and the sun winks through the trees and the bins fill up and our sweat arrives.  

My family trickles in, along with some well-wishing friends, and the bittersweet feeling returns. Another year, another year, another year. All that effort distilled into a bin. The taste of 2014, as manifest through Malbec. Life in all its magic marches on, and we with it.