I get along with a little help from my friends (and family). Making it through grape harvest is relaxing, fun, challenging, frustrating and tedious all at the same time. Luckily this year I had help at crucial times harvesting grapes and people seemed to have fun helping out. So far this year we have harvested over 3300 pounds of grapes from our vineyard and other local organic farms. We made 13 batches of wine. More wine from apples is yet to come.
October 9th was my daughter Bina’s birthday and also my brother Jeff’s birthday. For me, it was Baco Noir Day, one of my favorite grapes and wines. I started picking on the 9th and a friend and neighbor, Steve Lecture came over on the 10th to help pick what turned out to be about 500 pounds of Baco Noir. It was fairly sweet, 25.5 degrees Brix, My intent is to take advantage of the sharp character of the grape and the sweetness to make a strong and complex wine with a crisp finish. It worked on the skins for 5 days before being tapped into glass carboys where it will be for the next two years.
The next day, another neighbor and wine aficionado, Kit Schultz, helped pick 185 pounds of Okanogan Riesling after Cheryl and I got back from the Wednesday Farmer’s Market. That afternoon the grapes were warmer than they were early in the day, but I kept them in the heated wine shed so they would get up to 60 degrees F. – warm enough to ferment. Good thing we did since the temperature was down to freezing that night. I kept them fermenting on the skins for two days hoping to capture some of the perfume of ripe Riesling grapes but not make it either very sweet or very dry.
That Saturday, the 14th, our friends, Mark England and Linda Short, came over to pick Pinot Noir with Cheryl and
Tiffany Lakatos brought her two young children, Roots and Selah, with her to help me pick Leon Millot grapes at Downriver Orchard, owned by Don Worley. These were great grapes that I had asked Don to hold for me until they were very sweet. While the kids scavenged grapes from nearby rows, Tiffany, Don and I picked what were eventually 650 pounds of this Millot. I am constantly asked at the market for my sweetest wine. I used a low alcohol yeast that will leave some sugar in the wine and did not leave these on the skins for long which will mellow the taste. I don’t usually like to make a sweet wine but hope this one turns out that way.
Rains moved in toward the end of the month so Cheryl and I covered the Old Vine Lucie Kuhlmann that we had not picked yet with tarps to keep it from getting wet. We had already picked 500 pounds of Lucie Kuhlmann from our “new” grapes in only 2 hours late in September with the help of the Joe Greco Family. We picked one row from vines planted in 1986 and 1990 during a break in the weather on the 20th and another on the 22nd while the Seahawks beat the Giants. These were lower sweetness grapes but they fermented ferociously. I had to divide the wine into more carboys to keep it from foaming over the tops. The wine will be more complex and should age longer than most.
The next day I picked over 100 pounds of Leon Millot grown by Don Andrew in the Colville Valley. By then, after several frosts, the leaves had fallen off the vines and Don had covered them with nets to keep the starlings off. This crop was a big improvement over Don’s harvest last year at 26 Brix. It will be another of the sweet Leon Millot for 2017.
The day after that I picked our Gewurtztraminer, a white wine we really prize, get very little of and don’t yet sell. I had a tarp over it too. It has a distinct fruity flavor. I have a young row growing that someday may equal the incredible production from our first two plants. The Crandalls at Riverview Orchard gave them to us years ago. That night Cheryl and I went to a reading by Washington State Poet Laureate, Todd Marshall. He had help from our local poet, Lynn Schott and Dennis Held, a poet from Spokane, whose hands were stained black. Amazingly, Cheryl correctly guessed that the stain was from walnut husks. She also read a poem from her phone by Sherman Alexie, “Hymn”, that she had sent earlier to friends and family. It was particularly appropriate for the night with a theme of how much more admirable it is to love people outside of your friends and family than just those you are already close to.
The Gewurtztraminer, an early harvest of Siegerrebe, a small Himrod and Giesenheim field blend and a late harvest of Muscat are my white wines for this year. Don Worley grew the Siegerrebe and Muscat. He also came over just before Cheryl and I packed up for a trip to our annual Barreca “Thanksween” reunion near MT Rainier and lent us his wine press. I have been using only free run juice from the fermented wine must without pressing. The press added volume to the harvest and will also add dregs at the bottom of the carboys. I have been avoiding dregs by sticking to free run, but I notice now that the pressed juice ferments more vigorously than the free run. I am separating the free run and pressed juices this year to see how that changes the character of the wine.
The family reunion did not go off without a hitch or two. But it worked out well with contributions from everyone toward food, entertainment and accommodations. Cheryl and I enjoyed a walk in the woods across the street where we watched elk and found some Chanterelle mushrooms.
In many ways October was hectic and exhausting, but these wines will stand for years as products not just of our winery but of our community.