The Edmond Sun

Food

October 22, 2012

Harvest is magical, but grueling

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.

1
Text Only
Food
  • oil infographic[1].png Easy on the coconut oil

    These days, it seems like coconut oil is soaking up credit for its positive affect on a wide range of health conditions. But, still developing science around the popular oil tells a little different story.
    “We know all saturated fats are not created equally, but there’s no evidence that coconut oil is better or healthier than other vegetable oils,” said Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • brisket2.jpg Food Network show visits Guthrie for ’89er Days

    Guthrie’s annual ’89er Days Celebration provides a variety of activities for people to enjoy including a carnival, rodeo, parade and lots of food vendors.
    This year, visitors at the 84th annual event, which runs Tuesday through Saturday, will notice an added bonus when a film crew from the new television series “Carnival Eats” will be in town filming for its inaugural episode.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Salads Spring is for salads, but make healthy choices of ingredients

    Whether you want to enjoy a salad at your favorite restaurant, breeze through a salad bar for a quick and nutritious lunch, or stock your fridge and pantry so you can make a bountiful salad at home, one thing is for sure: Now is the time to do it.
    While much of the U.S. is at least a few weeks away from harvesting local lettuce, our appetites — oh, really, our very souls — are ready to put the long cold winter behind us and put the stock pot in a dark closet.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Easter eggs The hottest Easter egg shades and styles with food color

    This season’s Easter eggs are getting a makeover with a wide variety of must-have spring colors and designs. McCormick is offering new color palettes and dyeing techniques, including a painting method that achieves a watercolor effect. These Easter eggs will look too good to hide in baskets — so put them front-and-center in your seasonal décor.
    “With our new colors and design tips, it’s easy to make fashionable Easter eggs. Plus, it’s fun to experiment with different color combinations you can’t get from a kit — like our take on Radiant Orchid, the Pantone® color of the year,” said Mary Beth Harrington of the McCormick Kitchens.

    April 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Get a taste of George Washington’s Peach Brandy

    Everything is just peachy at the George Washington Distillery in Mount Vernon, Va.
    The historic distillery and museum, open from April until October each year, will offer peach brandy for sale beginning April 1, with the recipe straight from the 18th century records and distilling methods of Washington himself.

    April 7, 2014

  • Magnetic board a nifty new way to keep knives

    The magnetic board is not a new idea, but there’s a new version on the market that’s worth a look.

    April 7, 2014

  • Trading a desk job for one in the vineyards

    Finding Shane Finley was easy.
    Via email, we planned to meet for lunch at Bourbon Steak in Washington, D.C., a restaurant that’s housed at the Four Seasons. While the steakhouse is known for having one of the best wine lists in the city, it’s typically filled with tee-totaling lobbyists and power brokers during the day. So when I spotted a redheaded 30-something with unkempt hair wearing jeans and an untucked flannel, I figured it was Shane.
    I was right.

    April 7, 2014

  • Food Delectable dessert indulgences

    Dessert is an indulgence, and when you delight in the taste, texture and aroma of a decadent sweet treat, you savor every bite. It is easy to get lost in the flavor and fragrance of rich chocolate or creamy caramel.

    February 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pears 1 Simple weeknight suppers with pears

    “Hectic family schedules don’t have to get in the way of serving up tasty and healthy weeknight dinners,” explains leading nutrition expert, cookbook author and television star Ellie Krieger, author of “Weeknight Wonders: Delicious, Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less.”

    February 3, 2014 3 Photos

  • pm_the biggest loser.jpg Edmond’s ‘Biggest Loser’ moves to final round

    Edmond’s David Brown has reached one more plateau in his quest to lose weight. Tuesday the announcement was made that he had made it to the final three in The Biggest Loser contest.
    The season’s three finalists who will weigh-in for the $250,000 grand prize and the title of “The Biggest Loser” during next week’s live finale broadcast include: Brown, a 43-year-old construction company project manager and phone company social commerce leader, Bobby Saleem, a 28-year-old attorney from Chicago, Ill.; and Rachel Frederickon, a 24-year-old voice-over artist from Los Angeles, Calif.  
    In the end, Rachel finished in first place with a time of one hour and 32 minutes in the Triathlon. She was immune from elimination at the upcoming weigh-in. Brown finished second.
    Brown said the most nerve wracking part was the weigh-in because he always weighed in last.
     Brown said the hardest work he did was emotional. “From week to week I was having to confront and overcome different fears,” Brown said. “I was pushing myself every day to the utmost limits. When you are at the end of your rope physically you have to deal with your emotions. I was journaling and praying a lot.”

    January 29, 2014 1 Photo