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.
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.
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.”
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.”
Game day party tips for football fans
Entertaining this football season? To make your gatherings memorable, you’ll need to do more than just turn on the game and hope for the best. With the right party plays, you can treat your guests to a spirited game day and a memorable football feast.
Try incorporating these game changing ideas into your regular party playbook:
Celebrating balance in Pinot Noir
“If a Pinot Noir is overwhelmed with fruit — or, indeed, by any element, like oak, fruit extraction, fruit ripeness, or alcohol — you’re going to lessen the possibility that the wine can express essential place. And for me, Pinot Noir is all about essential place.”
If any grape demands contemplation, it’s Pinot Noir. The great ones translate time and place, clearly expressing the characteristics of their vintage and the soils and climate in which they’re grown.
How to make hearty winter dishes without meat
Want to add interesting taste, texture and depth to your cooking? Think mushrooms. Most varieties are available year-round.
Resolve to give your cooking a bold makeover in the new year
Bored with your everyday cooking? This New Year, resolve to give your meals an exuberant makeover. You won’t even need to look across an ocean for bold flavor inspiration from other cuisines. You can start at home, say experts.
“American cuisine has been crafted from the stupendous ingredients, flavors and dishes derived from all people who have stepped upon its shore — east to west, northern tip to southern gulf. All of it has merged into a single fabulous, kaleidoscopic menu,” said Susanna Hoffman, anthropologist and food writer and co-author of the new book, “Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors.”
McCormick announces top flavors and food trends for 2014 and beyond
Marking its 125th year as a food industry innovator, McCormick & Company, Incorporated kicked off a yearlong celebration of the tastes that bring us together with the unveiling of its McCormick® Flavor Forecast® 2014: 125th Anniversary Edition.
Annual gingerbread house contest
Spread holiday cheer by making a gingerbread house this year. The Edmond Historical Society & Museum invites residents to enter into the fifth annual Gingerbread House Contest at 2 p.m. Dec. 14. Ages 5 and older are welcome to participate.
Gingerbread House Contest Rules:
• Ages 5-11, Ages 12-17, 18 and older
• Must be made out of edible materials
• Placed on 18-inch by 18-inch or smaller board
• No gingerbread kits (but you may use graham crackers)
• Participation is free, pre-registration is required
• Bring gingerbread house to the Edmond Historical Society & Museum between the dates of Dec. 10-13.
Judges will present first, second and third place awards in each age category. Judges will be looking for:
Edmond reminds residents of proper disposal of ‘FOG’
The City of Edmond’s FOG program helps homeowners learn to properly dispose of fats, oils and grease.
“These few simple tips will help you avoid a sewer back-up in your home. Not only is a sewer back-up unpleasant and unsanitary, the clean-up can cost thousands of dollars and your homeowner’s insurance may not cover the cost” said Casey Moore, public information officer.
Fats, oils and grease eventually become solid rather than liquid and the grease will stick to the sides of sewer pipes and clog them. This can cause a back-up and an overflow in your home, or into the streets and streams.
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