Crush Time

You have to be flexible to make wine. This past Friday, I was just a guy on his way to a weekend getaway in Deep Creek, Maryland. On Sunday, I rushed home from said vacation to load more than 350 pounds of grapes into my car.

A call came from Dr. Bob on Friday evening that our grapes were ready and *had* to be picked up over weekend. So, we did what we had to do. It was not the idyllic, ‘family day at the vineyard’ we had initially envisioned. It was rushed, and I flew solo while Caitlin kept our 11-month old entertained at home (she’s a saint). We’ll have to wait until the 2015 vintage to introduce our son to the joys of the crush.

I’m tired, and I keep finding grape bits in my hair. But, our 2014 vintage is successfully underway.

Here’s a funny story. As some know, our house burned down a little less than two years ago. Consequently, we couldn’t make wine last year while our house was being rebuilt.

In the midst of the re-build process, Dr. Bob called me to see if I wanted to buy any grapes. I told him our sad tale, indicating that we would be passing on the year’s allotment, and asked him to please keep me on the list for 2014.

A few months ago, I called Dr. Bob’s house to put in my grape order and his wife answered the phone.

Me: “Hi, is Bob there?”
Bob’s wife: “May I say who’s calling?”
Me: “I’m a home winemaker and have been a customer of Bob’s before and wanted to see about buying some grapes this year.”
Bob’s wife (yelling to Bob across the house): “Bob! That grape guy whose house burned down is on the phone!”

We’re regional celebrities.

I’d originally hoped to get 200 pounds of Cabernet Sauvignon, 200 pounds of Cabernet Franc, and 200 pounds of Vidal Blanc for this year’s vintages. Due to a variety of factors, Dr. Bob was only able to give me 60 pounds of Cabernet Sauvignon, 137 pounds of Cabernet Franc, and 154 pounds of Vidal Blanc. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Having not made wine in two years, my memory is a little fuzzy. I’m also very bad at writing things down (getting better at writing things down is one of my 2014 wine resolutions). Using only my memory, I thought that I ordered 200 pounds each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and 100 of Vidal Blanc in 2012. It turns out that I’d actually ordered only 150 pounds each two years ago, not 200. I barely had enough fermenter space to bring home the 351 pounds. If Dr. Bob had actually been able to give me all 600 pounds, I’d have been in a heap of trouble. Not just because I had no way of transporting that amount of grapes, but also with Caitlin, who has been asking me to please write things down for the past ten years.

I was able to crush the Vidal Blanc grapes and press out the juice using Dr. Bob’s press. All in all, we have about 9 gallons of Vidal Blanc juice. I also crushed all the Caberent Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and brought everything back to Baltimore. Back home, the Vidal Blanc juice was siphoned into two, five gallon glass carboys in preparation for fermentation. The red grapes got a treatment of pectic enzyme to extract more color and juice before we add yeast to start fermentation. Both the white and red grapes also got a dose of potassium metabisulfite to protect against spoilage bacteria.

Hey, another funny story. When I got to Dr. Bob’s, there was another car in the driveway with a flat tire. To my great surprise, a man in full camouflage and a bow and arrow got out of the car. To my even greater surprise, I noticed he had a hook in place of his right hand. I am not making this up.

It turns out that he’s a friend of Dr. Bob’s, and does some deer hunting around Dr. Bob’s property. Two thoughts raced through my head:

1) This guy must be really hard core to bow hunt with only one hand.
2) I’m all alone in the middle of nowhere with a one-handed bow hunter. I consoled myself with the fact that I’ve never seen a slasher movie set in a vineyard.

Unfortunately, as we were going our separate ways, I put my foot in my mouth big time. The one-handed bow hunter told me he was going to change his flat tire before he starting hunting, to which I replied, “Let me know if I can give you a hand”. I am not a smart man.

Paramount Pictures: contact us at makingabeille@gmail.com for script rights.

Dr. Bob's Vineyard

Dr. Bob’s Vineyard

351 pounds of freshly picked grapes

351 pounds of freshly picked grapes

Cabernet Franc grapes

Cabernet Franc grapes

Vidal Blanc grapes

Vidal Blanc grapes

Vidal Blanc about to get crushed

Vidal Blanc about to get crushed

Crusher/destemmer filled with Cabernet Franc

Crusher/destemmer filled with Cabernet Franc

Crushed Vidal Blanc about to get pressed

Crushed Vidal Blanc about to get pressed

Pressed Vidal Blanc cake

Pressed Vidal Blanc cake

Freshly crushed Cabernet Franc

Freshly crushed Cabernet Franc

Discarded grape stems

Discarded grape stems

My car loaded up with 351 pounds of crushed/pressed grapes

My car loaded up with 351 pounds of crushed/pressed grapes

2 Comments

  1. So glad to see you back in the crush of things; looking forward to following your progress from afar!

  2. So wish we were there to see the birth of this year’s vintage!! We miss you guys. And your wine!

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