The Cabernet Sauvignon has finished its transmutation from grape into wine and rests quietly in a pair of open steel fermenters. We finish cleaning the pumps and hoses and press. The wine snakes its way down the tube and slithers into the machine as I wash down my legs and feet with rainwater. Then I climb into the resonating gong of the vat, squishing down into the cool magenta sea. Clumps of skins swath my legs like rich tendrils of purple dulse. I'm breathing a spicy fragrance redolent of mulberries and time. I clutch the rim of the fermenter as the forklift gently carries us up to the open lip of the press. And with blaring rock and roll echoing through the winery, I raise shovelfuls of grape and seed and wine slush into the press. I am breathing a lovely cab sauv perfume, along with carbon dioxide and I keep losing my breath. I’m not intoxicated, but I must be drinking this in through my skin, cause despite the exertion, I’m feeling euphoric. A booming reverberation ricochets off the vat as my plastic shovel strikes its curves. The cd ends, the crew has drifted away, I'm alone with the wine, with the last sloshes of the entire year's effort. I am afloat and at the same time I've come back to earth.
A cool breeze lifts decaying grape leaves as I shovel the newly pressed skins onto the pile of desiccated malbec skins. The compost pile is growing huge and needs turning and I put it off for yet another day. The light is escaping, the world wants to sleep awhile, to dream a dream of renewal - I am utterly in harmony with that program, I am bone weary. The smell of moldering earthiness mixes with lifted mulberry, rose and cassis and various alcoholic nectars, earth combining with heaven, and everything blending its way into new soil. The slightest rain kisses a benediction and suddenly I see the year bookended neatly. Just about there now. I'm weary, yes, but the job isn't yet finished.
We've tested the wine for residual sugar and deemed it dry. The barrels have been washed and are formed up in an expectant line, like diners at a banquet, awaiting their fill. I've thoroughly cleaned pump and hoses with caustic and citric and flushed them thoroughly with water and I'm preparing to bring the wine home. I tune out random winery cacophony with a mantra of sound generated by my trusty iPod. I’m armed with a flashlight, a silver wand and a focus. I fill each successive barrel slowly with great care, attentive every moment as the liquid swirls its way in.
Soon I'm lost in the richness of all the thrilling smells and the look of it coming in. It circulates with a cosmic Brownian motion and it's the Pig Light Show, Live at the Fillmore. I see universes whirling in perfect harmonious orbits, up and out and away. First this nebula of white blasts a trajectory across the purple to meet a galaxy sliding in from somewhere, only to drift, join, smash and whirl away from and then to collide with yet another and another. The macrocosm shifts through the microcosm and I'm still on mantra, waiting with hand on switch and an eye to properly dock the mothership in its berth, without spilling a drop.
A world spins by and I can make out this guy out on some Gondwanaland peering into a barrel with a flashlight and a silver wand and he sees another guy on the edge of another world watching the rising magenta tide, who in turn is watching some other guy watching the wine. Infinitely so. The wine is dreaming me. Cosmic as ever.