Monday, September 19, 2011

Processes & Anticipation

From 8.9.11

They’re coming. Ripe grapes. Ripe, delicious wine grapes, which as soon as they’re picked from the vine will begin on their process of becoming wine. The process-rich nature of winegrowing and winemaking is what draws so many of us to wine.  You can’t fake it. You can’t rush it. You can’t fully control it. You witness it. While the vine and the soil and the weather each exist and change and co-exist and interact, you watch carefully, ready to jump in at any point if human intervention might prove beneficial. You wait for the grapes to grow into themselves, to grow into all they can be, to achieve a dynamic harmony between acids and sugars and skin to pulp ratio and a million other aspects/indicators of optimum maturity that we in many cases don’t have a better way of testing for (yet?) than with our amazingly evolved but little understood palate.

It can be a multi-million dollar betting game to make the decision of when to pick. The myriad different indicators of ripeness will never all be exactly where you want them at exactly the same time, and you never know what the weather will bring if you wait. Some years betting against time and weather is trickier than others.  This year has shown us a long, steady, gradual ripening and a smaller-than-usual yield due to rains late into spring. The winemakers seem highly optimistic about this year’s fruit, which is pretty exciting. When you hear prominent winemakers in the Valley saying things like, “This year might deliver the best crop of fruit in a long time,” it’s easy to get caught up in the hopefulness of what might be to come. What will happen this harvest?! Will the fruit continue to ripen gradually, making possible the creation of stunningly complex, elegant, balanced wines? Or will the weather take some unexpected turn to the detriment of the crop? Or will it be a moderately exciting harvest with minor issues and no particularly noteworthy circumstances, leaving us somewhat underwhelmed and disappointed after the build-up of pre-Harvest fantasizing and curiosity? Is this even possible? Can’t wait for the tale to begin to unfold… What will I be writing over the next few days, weeks and months? Only time will tell…


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