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Friday, October 14, 2011

Ode to Grapes and a Happy Harvest



When it's time, it's time!

I remember how well that was really true of pregnancy. Our six sons are a dramatic testimonial to the statement's accuracy. As it was--six times--Judi would be in her ninth month, and as the days counted by our schedules were increasingly punctuated by thoughts like, "Is today the day?" There was "that window" in which the blessed event was most likely to happen. Generally each of our sons--with one notable exception--was born in his anxiously anticipated "frame of time."

Having become a dedicated vintner over the past 13 years, I've learned how grapes can similarly introduce some of those anxious moments about, "When it's time, it's time." I've been out there harvesting the grapes from our vines in snowstorms, in bright warm sunshine, when it's raining, and sometimes in the dark! I've been crushing them inside a cold 35-gallon plastic garbage can when the temperature on our back porch was only in the 20's Fahrenheit--it gives the term "dumpster diving" a whole new range of meaning. (No, I have no video's of that event...so far.)

This year the harvest has been comparatively pleasant. The weather has offered me generally warm temperatures and sunny skies. Through September I'd been watching the grapes quite closely both in an effort to monitor their maturing readiness, but also to prevent any of the other grape-loving creatures from becoming too interested in them. (I've lost whole crops of our grapes in years past simply because I wasn't paying close enough attention! A Mule Deer herd, for example, can pick the vines clean overnight, but there's squirrels, birds, skunks, and, and...) The critters know exactly when the grapes are ready to be harvested, and they come calling to sample what's available--unless I intervene.

However, this year's harvest has not come without it's own special challenges. This year the grapes are not ripening in unison or uniformly. Practically, that means some clusters are ripe here and there, but the rest are not ready. Some are even still green! When Judi and I visited Willamette Valley Vineyards in Oregon (in September) they were experiencing the same thing. Apparently it's a national phenom. Interesting.

So, I'm driven by the ripeness of these clusters, and those, and those; the ones that are ripe. I've been forced to pick them staggered by one and two week intervals. Ugh. It means the process of picking, crushing and gathering up the must, and all the other necessary post-picking processes must be done right after each harvest. It's a demanding 12-hour proposition. Then I wait a week or two and do it all again. Ugh, ugh. The promise of the final product--a beautiful, crystal clear white or amber wine--makes it all worth while. But it's the grapes that drive the activities going 0n around them since, "When it's time, it's time."