Thursday, September 4, 2008

"Picking at Harvest"..

Picking at Harvest
11:15 AM Aug. 22, 2008 - 0 comments - [ post comment ]

"Picking at Harvest"...

Long before the sun came up on the 20th, I was preparing for picking. This was a long and physical day, but exciting and energizing because this represented the beginning of the 2008 crush. I find crush to be much like preparing for a marathon, or a race. You train, prepare develop a plan and then go out and execute . Unexpected things come up, you handle them as they arise and then you see what the results are when you are done.
As the sun rose, I had sanitized & labeled the t-bins, cleaned the pick baskets, and was keeping the winery informed of my progress. One of the fastest ways to piss off your crush crew is as a grower, to not keep them up to date on your progress, especially if you are running late. The bulk of crush work is prepping, cleaning, tearing down and cleaning. Having your crew stand around waiting for you is not a good thing .
Picking went smoothly, with one notable exception.. a large amount of fruit was damaged in the upper part of the vineyard from raccoons & possums. As the vineyard is surrounded by homes, I had thought birds would be the #1 enemy. using scare tape had kept the birds at bay, however I soon learned that within the past week, these guys had dug under the fences and were turning the vineyard into a buffet. As with mush that takes place in this, you are always learning something.... Next year... "no more Mr. Nice guy"......
If you haven't had the pleasure to appreciate how much work picking is, or better, to appreciate what a skilled worker can do, just give it a try. Go pick a row and a new appreciation for the skill to work quickly will soon develop. After about slicing my finger off and bleeding like a stuck pig, I finished the pick on time, texted the winery that I was on my way in.
There are a number of ways to approach working crush.. There are wineries that run at high stress, high drama, with arguing , demanding winemakers that bitchout their assistant winemakers that then bitch out their cellar crews. There are others that run it as if it were a piecemeal factory job. My feeling, and my observation of those that do the best jobs ( and make some killer wines) is to keep a good vibe, work hard but make sure to enjoy what you do. When people are empowered and feel a part of what is going on, you not only get your best effort, but you have a sense of team, which means that you'll have others watching your back, making sure things work and keeping mistakes to a minimum. I have seen times when accidents and bad things happen, not so much because of an error, but because the enviroment of the place was such that people have an "it's not my job" attitude.. when you are dead tired, anyone can make a mistake, and having and enviroment where the cellar worker is comfortable telling something to the winemaker is a tremendous asset.
With this said, one of the most critical peices of equipment I packed was the "JDV Crush Cooler" ... this is kept full of ice, water, soft drinks and most importantly beer, thru out crush. keep in mind, "It takes a lot of beer to make wine" .... Believe me, when you are working in 90 degree heat lifting barrels, hoses, covered in grape juice, you are not reaching for a glass of Cabernet!! Icy cold beer makes you lots of friends, keeps your team happy. When the growers come in from the field, taking care of them is just as important. So, packed up , I pulled into the winery, and we bagan crush.
Once this begins, it is a pretty simple process. The grapes go into the destemmer/crusher. you can hand sort, pull out MOG ( matter other than grapes, which we will discuss in another blog) the now crushed grapes usually go into either a t-bin or stainless steel tank, and then a quick analysis is done to measure Brix, TA & pH. The readings all came out well, and there was general agreement that the fruit quality was excellent. I'd rather have great fruit quality but not enough of it, than have tons of crappy fruit. When picking , I kept reminding myself to only take the best bunches and do not settle for less in the name of quantity. We then innoculated the must and then added yeast the next day.
It is now a different feeling for me with my grapes in the barn, and the fermentation process under way. All the work for the past year in the vineyard is finished. That aspect of my job for this year is at a close. It even feels quiet somehow out in the vineyard. With my estate Zin in, I feel a bit relieved. I will be able to have my Zin in barrel as the hieght of crush hits. I am glad for this, as it is always a distraction when you have your personal project going at the same time you are working all the other fruit.
Now it is on to fermentation, measurements and punchdowns..

Next blog... "chewing up the sugar".....

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