OKLA. CITY —
From the outside, winemaking seems romantic.
Farm workers lovingly tend to their vineyards throughout the spring and summer, and then hand harvest their grapes in the early fall. Those grapes are then gently crushed — by foot, of course — and turn into wine on their own through the magic of fermentation.
We’re led to believe that winemakers simply monitor this process. They’re there to make sure the final product winds up on the dinner table, but nature takes care of virtually everything.
This narrative is partially true. But it ignores the grueling, backbreaking work that goes into every bottle of wine we open.
Last week, I took part in that work during a brief visit to California, where I visited 12 wineries in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District. I came equipped with rubber boots and gloves — and offered to help wherever an extra hand was needed. I’m still hurting.
Wherever wine is made, harvest is a special time. But the work is exhausting.
In the evenings and early mornings, vineyards are packed with laborers collecting fruit, as picking while the weather is cool protects workers from daytime heat and ensures the grapes arrive in pristine condition.
The roads are equally busy. In the mornings and evenings, trucks are filled with grapes. Throughout the day, those same trucks haul equipment and vineyard supplies.
Wineries are abuzz with around-the-clock activity.
Forklifts and tractors are in constant use. As grapes come in, they're sorted, de-stemmed and sorted again, as no winemaker wants leaves, spiders or rocks to end up in her wine. With white wines, those grapes are crushed and pressed before fermentation. With reds, most of the grapes are typically left intact before they're placed in barrels or tanks. At this point, yeast gets to work — gradually converting the sugar into alcohol and imparting a litany of new tastes and aromas. Over about two weeks, what begins as grape juice becomes wine.
Throughout this period, winemakers regularly taste the fermenting juice — and bring samples to the laboratory — to make sure the process is progressing as it should.
For every winemaking team, the cleaning never ends. From bins, sorting tables and de-stemming machines to tanks, pipes, and winemaking equipment, scalding hot water is used, over and over again, to hose down virtually everything. Wineries are very wet during harvest season.
The work seems endless. Harvest only lasts about six to 10 weeks, depending on the grape variety. But during this period, 12- to 14-hour days are normal. Much of the work is messy and physical.
Some is mind-numbingly repetitive. Many tough choices have to be made. And at every step, attention to detail is critical — one small error could result in hundreds of gallons of lost wine.
Despite all the effort, harvest is magical. The air is filled with energy and the smell of fermenting grapes. Winemakers and their teams beam with joy, knowing their work will bring joy and pleasure to countless people. I can't wait to go back.
David White, a wine writer, is the founder and editor of Terroirist.com. His columns are housed at Wines.com, the fastest growing wine portal on the Internet.
OKLA. CITY —
From the outside, winemaking seems romantic.
AS I SEE IT: Impatiently waiting for spring
Snow is sheeting off my neighbor’s roof as I sit at the desk thumbing through Soft Surroundings’ spring catalog. I can’t find a thing I want, and that’s never a good sign. What’s the use of thumb shopping when it looks like there might not even be a spring this year? But then comes the rolling thunder, and I half expect the snow to rearrange itself into a swirling spring funnel. Hamlet would say the time is out of joint, and I’d have to agree for a number of reasons.
In addition to this ongoing abominable weather, I personally have been plagued by a number of both literal and figurative out-of-joint events including a near-fatal trip to Bed Bath & Beyond.
Most deadly fraternity scraps initiation for new members
Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of the largest U.S. fraternities and the deadliest, said Friday it will ban the initiation of recruits, citing the toll that hazing has taken on its newest members.
ProCure encourages Oklahomans to screen for cancer
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, cancer is the second-leading cause of death in Oklahoma. ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Oklahoma City, a treatment facility that uses proton therapy to help patients fight cancer, is encouraging Oklahomans to understand the importance of regular screening and early detection for various types of cancers.
Don’t let pond issues become major problems
Managing ponds is a lot like doing laundry in the sense that if you do not keep up with it, you could be overwhelmed.
Stay the course with potty training
Q: I’ve been using the method described in your toilet-training book with my 18-month-old daughter and she’s been doing great during the day. She rarely has an accident. However, I’m still using a diaper at nap-time and during the night (waiting for some consistency in dryness before taking that away). Is that correct? The only problem is she’s figured out the routine and now only poops in her diaper when I put her down to sleep. She has not gone poop on the potty during the day for several weeks. Is that cause for concern? Should I take away the diapers totally? I don’t want to create a bad habit. Thanks!
Iris Lochner remains young at heart
It was a hot humid afternoon in August when my 9-year-old grand daughter had asked me to drive her to the Fine Arts Institute of Edmond to find out about the Edmond Youth Chorus. I didn’t want to go. I was tired, my energy depleted from the 100-degree heat. But I took her, mentally griping the whole way.
How to maintain a home throughout the years
According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average cost of maintaining a home is $558 per year. Across the board, experts advise homeowners set aside 1 to 2 percent of the cost of their home for home repairs. Maintenance and repairs can’t always be avoided but some steps can be taken to decrease the frequency and cost, especially regarding heating and air.
Changing your brain keeps it sharp as you age
After she retired from her job as a medical transcriptionist, Elaine Savage grew isolated. She rarely went out or talked to friends on the phone. She relied on her family to do her grocery shopping.
Brownville: Where retirees go to work
I firmly believe that if retirees don’t find meaningful activities, they do not flourish. It’s the same with little towns — stay active or die. Brownville, Neb., could have done that. Thanks to some brilliant and committed folks creating second careers, Brownville now is making a comeback.
INTEGRIS James L. Hall Jr. Center for Mind, Body and Spirit Celebration
The INTEGRIS James L. Hall Jr. Center for Mind, Body and Spirit will celebrate the bi-annual Patricia Price Browne Lecture Series Luncheon this month. The event is a celebration in memory of Patricia Price Browne and Gene Barth. It is set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 27 at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club.
- More Features Headlines
- AS I SEE IT: Impatiently waiting for spring