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ferment

What goes around, comes around...

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What goes around, comes around...

After the crush I returned to the vineyard with the stems and potpourri of matter discarded at the sorting table. They will be composted and returned to the soil. The sun was slipping down behind the ridge, sending golden and orange and pink rays into the gathering clouds. A chilly breeze tickled the leaves of the now fruitless vines and I was struck by how different it is already. Like when the kids have first climbed onto the bus and the house feels empty and changed with the missing of them, the vineyard drew similar feelings from me. The energy had fully changed from outward to inward, from the exuberance of summer to the contemplation of autumn, all in a matter of hours.

That lone kangaroo was back, having a feast amongst the grapes that had dropped, and I opened the gates to welcome in any and sundry that wanted to glean. I stood there in the fading light gazing at this lovely spot where I spend so much of my days. The Cabernet’s leaves were dark and green in contrast to the fading yellow of the Chardonnay. Seasonal rains will soon be knocking the leaves down and the vines will be heading into dormancy. Everything moves.

The last of the sun reflected on the tops of the Marris as I headed back to the winery. The sun had equinoxed northward a week ago. The moon, which crossed the equator today, would be rising, virtually full, within the hour to bathe these emptied vines with its silver. And those lovely crushed grapes were resting in an open fermenter, gathering themselves for their alchemical transition.

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The Sorting Table

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The Sorting Table

There were eleven of us bent over the sorting table as the grape bunches hit the destemmer and began their vibrating dance towards the pump. Twenty-two sharp eyes and twenty-two vigilant hands, with one aim - to insure that only perfect grapes made it into the ferment. Our careful handpick assured that a minimum of leaves and foreign material made it to the winery mixed in with the grapes, but the sorting table takes that careful attention to the next level. This is the final chance to discover and remove anything that shouldn’t go into the wine that might have slipped past our scrutiny during the handpick.

We were mainly targeting anything green. Nothing escaped our watchful eyes and quick hands darting in to cull the odd stem that had evaded the destemmer, random petioles, a stray leaf, unripe berry, a snippet of cane. We removed anything but sound ripe grapes. Without foreign material, nothing interferes with the perfect expression of our incredibly healthy Cabernet Sauvignon fruit. It's painstaking work and costly, but the elegant end result makes it well worth it.

After passing across the sorting table, the juice and skins and seeds were then gently pumped into a large open steel fermenter, which had been thoroughly scoured and rinsed and inspected. Over the next several hours the precious liquid gurgled in and rose slowly towards the top. As it did, the faintest of smells greeted my curious sniffs –a clean and unpretentious odor of fresh fruit – not too sweet, not too green, just a simple pure smell. It was the smell of beginnings, the smell of promise, the smell of a miraculous transformation about to commence...

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Chardonnay is Coming to Life

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Chardonnay is Coming to Life

I peeked in on the Chardonnay again today. The ferment is pretty much completed. When I pulled the bung and put my ear to the hole I heard that lovely fizzing song – one of my very favorite sounds in vintage. There’s also a deep slow resonating bass reverberation that rises out of the barrel. It’s a sound of strength and endurance and is one of the most heartening vibrations I know.

The working winery is a noisy place resounding with the music of organized chaos. I find a harmony in the cacophony of the focused energies of the crush. The chug of the pump sounds the heartbeat as it sends the gorgeous liquids splashing through the hoses, the blood vessels, of the winery. Everywhere at once comes the sound of vintage – the ubiquitous forklift driving, backing, humming; the sorting table vibrating, the precious juice swishing from the depths of the press into the catch-pan, the dulled splash of the pumpover, the whoosh of water sprayed in the endless course of cleaning, the deep bass of the power washer kicking in its subwoofer authoritative refrain.

And then all of a sudden the activity shifts, the noise level drops out and the sound and feel of the outside moves in. The birds are yakking it up in the Marri blossoms and there’s the slightest chill in the air. And summer is just a memory singing in the wine.

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