It’s that time of year again and winemakers all over the valley are getting ramped up for winemaking mania. Harvest has begun!
August was a riotous flurry of opulent Vendimia events celebrating the new vintage to come. I think I gained a few pounds with all the sybaritic eating and drinking … the wines were exquisite and the food, pure heaven. My voice is hoarse from over-socializing and I think that for the time being I’ve had my share of goose barnacles prepared in every way imaginable. But I’m ready for the intensive focus, multi-tasking and sheer physical labor that is on the way.
Last year I spread myself out across the valley, making wine in two different locations and was subject to the time schedule and vagaries of others. I was a virgin winemaker, a complete neophyte and learned with my head, heart, hands and backbone the basics of artisanal winemaking. This year I’m making wine on my back patio where I’ll have more control over the process. The fermentation tanks will be delivered this week and I’m renting the crusher/de-stemmer from a friend and fellow winemaker. I’m getting 5 tons of grapes this year to make 10 barrels of wine, which is doubling my production from the year before. That’s roughly 240 cases or nearly 3000 bottles of wine. Holy guacamole, Batgirl, that’s a lot of vino!
Local winemaker doyens, Camilo Mogoni and Hugo D’Acosta agreed in recent conversations on separate occasions that this year’s vintage could be exceptional. This optimistic prognosis has nothing to do with reading tea leaves or interpreting heavenly constellations. A shortage of winter rainfall may limit overall production but the fruit could be highly concentrated. Steady summer temperatures mean that the fruit is ripening evenly. A very good sign. Some winemakers have told me they plan to take advantage of this stellar vintage by upping production. Great wine begins in the vineyard and the promise of working with high-quality grapes makes my eyes dilate in happy anticipation.
All this week I’ll be out in the field, tromping around the vineyards, looking at my grapes, talking to the growers, tasting the berries, chewing on seeds, negotiating with the weather gods and more or less gauging when my first harvest will most likely arrive. It’s exciting!!!!! I’m doubly thrilled to report that my girlfriend, Diana Covarelli, who lives in Costa Rica (an old stomping ground of mine) will be joining me this year as my “wing gal” during the most intensive part of winemaking mania. This is a huge relief to me because I simply cannot do it alone! You’re going to love Diana, but watch out: she won’t take any guff! Oh, and did I mention she’s a fabulous cook? Woo hooo!
Many friends and acquaintances have been stepping forward volunteering to come and lend a hand once harvest begins and want to know what they can do …. Well, let me put it this way … help may include sorting grapes before the crush or giving the fermenting juice a “punch down” and it may include scrubbing down equipment, washing recycled wine bottles or hauling crates of stems to the back of the property. On the other hand it may include playing with my dogs and keeping them from being underfoot or watering my poor, neglected flowers. It may include making sandwiches, bringing take-out pizza, or building a bonfire out back where we can relax in the evening and sip on my “house” jug wine. It may also include wiping down my new front porch winetasting bar, El Corcho Rosa (the pink cork) and selling wine to passerby! Heck, if you’re going to come by to see how the wine is made and offer to help, you might as well stick around and sample the finished product. While Diana and I are making back patio wine, my front porch winetasting bar will be open for business!
As I write this, storm clouds gather above and I can’t help but wonder if this will be the weather pattern that determines next year’s wine. Hoping for favorable winds and sunshine!
Shout out to my dear friend, neighbor, designer/marketer and artist extraordinaire, Chente, and his son, Jack for raising the bar and building my gorgeous little tasting salon from re-purposed lumber. Many thanks to my sparkly girlfriend, Paula Burditt for re-upholstering my bar stools in salmon pink vinyl (Oh yeah!) And a big hug to my good friend, Stephanie Burns of Delta Airlines for helping me to get Diana from Costa Rica to my home here in Guadalupe Valley, Mexico. I adore my friends!!!!!