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Malbec

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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Malbec 2014

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Malbec 2014

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.

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