Well everyone, all of the cabernet franc from my adopted vines at Raphael have been harvested, crushed and are now fermenting (with Lalvin M05, a Loire Valley isoloate yeast) in an open-top oak barrel.
Average brix was around 22. The fruit was flavorful and the tannins ripe, so I’m pretty excited about how the wine is going to turn out.
Let me first say that I have a whole new level of respect for the hard work that goes into winemaking. It took me about four hours to harvest just a single row of grapes. After I was done Don, the assistant winemaker at Raphael joked that they would hire me at that rate. Actually, I don’t think he was joking at all.
Harvesting grapes is not a job that I’m perfectly suited for. I’m not freakishly tall, but at 6’3" I spent those four hours either bent at the waist or squatting down…and my back and legs are not happy about it today.
And did I mention that the clippers they gave me to snip the clusters from the vines are sharp? Even after being warned repeatedly of this, I still cut myself. But at least it only happened once.
After spending the time snipping, inspecting the clusters and removing any undesirable grapes, I can’t imagine how wine is made without hand harvesting. I pulled at least one berry off of just about every cluster and that’s not even counting the leaves, maple seeds and other stuff lurking within. If I hadn’t closely inspected each cluster and pulled the offenders out, all of things would have ended up in my wine. Who wants that?
One of the most amazing things to me was the variation in clusters and flavors, even withing just a single row. Certain areas were plumper than others. Some had picture-perfect clusters hanging handsomely while others were less attractive. Even the flavors and ripeness varied significantly in places. I did a lot of tasting and dropped a lot of the less-ripe fruit. I also had to drop a few clusters that were filled with botrytis. We’re not making late harvest cab franc here after all.
After all of the picking was done, I had 14 bins of ready-to-press grapes and it was time to move it all to the crush pad.
I’ve seen a crusher/de-stemmer in action several times, but it never ceases to amaze me how good it is at its job. Of course, the motor that runs the thing wasn’t working right, so one of the winery worker, Otto, used a hand crank. I’m very thankful for his strong right arm. And yes, that’s yours truly dumping a bin into the crusher. Don is on the left and Otto is hidden behind the apparatus.
It was amazing to me that an entire row, 14 bins worth of grapes, didn’t even fill a standard barrel. Of course, I don’t have any real knowledge of how many grapes leads to how much wine. It takes a lot more than you might think though.
It looks like I’m going to have about 35 gallons of wine to work with. The plan at this point is to press it early next week into either a couple glass carboys or a small stainless steel bin to let malo-lactic fermentation finish up.
As I was leaving, Don joked "See you in the morning. You’ve got punch down to do." This time he was joking. They are going to take care of that for me.
I had a great day at my own little harvest. It’s satisfying work that I could see myself doing a lot more. Then again, they made it pretty easy for me. They are still the true experts who put in a lot more hard work than I did yesterday. Even if my back says otherwise.