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Viewing entries tagged
Cabernet

It's All About the Cabernet

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It's All About the Cabernet

Two weeks later we’re easing up to the equinox and going in for the Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s the very opposite of the Malbec harvest – the moon is full, the energy, autumnal, the light silvered, brooding, quiet. The sea is snapping, blasting powerful low timbre pops that rise to reverberate over the ridge, like the sound of a faraway storm. I’m receiving the sounds in my gut like a type of foreboding and I will my breath to slow and my silly human thoughts to empty out so that something else can come in.

The ground is damp to my bare feet. The slightest breeze feathers up laden with moisture, redolent with anticipation. The fullish moon sets down below the horizon and the light has been extinguished. The night has been switched back on. Mercury and Venus have risen and gleam in the East, Saturn and Mars blaze in the western sky. It is a celestially rich moment with various forces and planets lining up perfectly. I’m feeling positively biodynamic as I rock down to the vineyard.

I compose the horoscope of this vintage in my sleep-deprived skull. Addled, grinning, I physicalize the least profound thoughts in all of astrology. I’m giggling with the chill energy of the morning, tasting grapes as we roll up the nets. I pause and listen to the world waking up -- first kookaburra, then magpie, lark, honeyeater, western ringneck parrot, the convoy of crew rolling in. 

Dawn discovers us picking with golden puffs of clouds flying sacred missions through the azure. Then in come the white tailed black cockatoos like a benediction. They station themselves in the marris ringing the vines and set up a cacaphonious hymn that’s immensely cheering. Their presence bookmarks an amazing year – they were here at the beginning of pruning and again as we pick the sum of the year’s work.

We pick and sort and sample brilliant grapes and we’re beaming. The whole lot is relaxed and focused, and dare I say it, fun? The fruit arrives steadily, bursting with flavor, life and energy. This is the essence of harvest.

I arrive with the first fruit at the winery and more cockatoos scoop in for a greeting. The whole world is talking, and I’m smiling as I listen.

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Rocking the Ferment

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Rocking the Ferment

We picked our Cabernet Sauvignon on a coldish autumn day, and the grapes were still cold when they were crushed and pumped into open fermenters. We covered the fermenters with shadecloth secured by elastic to keep out dust and insects and left them resting overnight in the open air of the winery shed. It was a cool night and in the morning the ferment had barely begun.

The next day dawned slightly warmer and the ferment heated up a degree or so, but there wasn’t very strong activity. Apparently it was going to stay cold for a while so we ferried the fermenters into the warmer barrel room and that did the trick, for overnight it began to move. When the ferment was really going we brought it back outside into the open air. Every few hours the temperature rose just a bit more until the yeasts were happily cranking away.

Every day I returned at regular intervals to punch down the cap or pump over the juice, and take a sample to measure and taste. The smell and color and flavor intensified with each successive visit. It was a thrill to inhale the scent of this bubbling exuberance. With each successive visit I could feel it growing more deeply into its own distinctive personality. Several times a day I tasted. I tasted with my nose, my eyes, my ears, my mouth. My hands were purple with tasting!

It reminded me of the magical time of pregnancy, when at first there’s just the slightest inkling that something miraculous is developing, and then suddenly that something is brewing with a speed and rapidity and intelligence. From that early moment of a barely perceptible glow it proceeds through its enchanted stages and the days have a timeless celebratory fullness. Likewise, as I monitored the ferment, moment to moment movement was barely perceptible, but under the surface mysterious changes were rushing to an incredible conclusion.

After six days of this ripening, blossoming, deepening, thickening, rather than extract too much from the skins and seeds, we decided to press it off. It will finish the ferment off skins, simply as juice. I took a last sniff and taste as we prepared to shovel the skins into the press and was intoxicated again by the magnificence of it all.

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Am I Picking in the Rain???

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Am I Picking in the Rain???

The rain is here and I welcome it, but it is the morning of the Cabernet harvest, so I’m hoping it blows over. We trudge through the drizzle to the vines by flashlight. The ocean is pounding. The cars of the vineyard crew are shushing in through the drizzle.

We set about removing the nets, getting soaked in the process. Miraculously the canopy of our close planting has kept the grapes dry. We distribute picking buckets face down so that no water gets in. As the light comes up the pickers arrive. And so does the rain, with force. With no air pollution, nor radiation, this is one of the cleanest rains on the planet. And we are Cloudburst, after all. But even so, do I want to risk diluting the wine?

My phone is ringing and texts are flying around the shire. Virtually every vineyard has canceled their pick today. But the clouds are lifting and we are ready to go! The nets are off, the light is up, and listen - the Silvereyes are massing expectantly in the trees. And suddenly the rain is pelting us and it’s clear that we aren’t picking today. We hurry to put the nets back in place and head off for dry clothes and a cup of tea.

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