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.