A personal perpsective of life in our Virginia vineyard... Christine Wells Vrooman



Tomorrow! Tomorrow... It's Only A Day Away!

We have been facing a pressing issue in the vineyard with some of our Pinot grapes. We would like the grapes to hang on the vine a bit after they reach their full ripeness to give the grapes a bit more time to rest without necessarily ripening any more. We need cooler weather to accomplish that. We are raising these babies in a record-breaking summer. They are ripening now during the hottest of the hot! Pinot grapes do not like extreme  heat. That is why we chose them for this site. At our elevation of 1800 feet we are usually about 5 to eight degrees cooler than surrounding areas. But this heat, this heat! Those berries that ripened the earliest are beginning to shrivel in this hot sun.  They are increasing their sugar levels but are losing their juice. It is evaporating and the berries are drying up. We have to get this fruit off the vines.

But Are They Ready?  We have been measuring the sugar levels (Brix) and the pH levels every few days for the last couple of weeks.  How do we measure Brix?  Well, I gather about 50 grapes from all sections of the pinot vines, from all areas of the clusters.  I put them into a ziploc bag and squeeze them, squeezing the juice from the skins and macerating the pulp.  I then drop several drops of the juice onto the refractometer and a blue line reads the measurement of sugar in the juice.  Pretty simple, actually.  We use a pH meter to measure the acid/alkaline reading.  We have been calling in the numbers to our French winemaker, our dear, "Monsieur Matthieu Finot!!"  He wanted a Brix of 22.5-23 and pH of about 3.4.  If we could get the numbers close to that at the same time, he will be happy, he tells me.  This balance of sugar and pH levels will produce a wine of balance and good structure.  We believe the wine is made in the vineyard, not in the wine cellar.  And so, last evening we took a reading and voila!! We are there!  23 and 3.5.  Get ready for delivery! Tomorrow we harvest our Pinot Noir!

Before the sun rose today, I walked down to spend a last quiet morning with the grapes, draped so lusciously from the trellis like strands of deep purple pearls.  On the horizon, behind the mountains, the sky grew pink, then gold and orange, lifting a sea of blue to begin this day of preparation.  I walked through every row, my hands outstretched as if to bless each vine.  I wished for the grapes to touch the hearts of those that sip it, that they feel the love that has gone into this fruit from the moment these vines first set their roots into the gravely dirt.  It was a nearly sacred morning, a final communion with the fruit I have nurtured for so long on this very special place on earth.

The day was charged with an energy I can't quite describe.  It was reminiscent of preparing for opening night, or of the day before a wedding, or graduation or the day before giving birth.   We gathered everything we will need for tomorrow...the lugs, the nippers, scales, refreshments, and of course our pickers!  Our dear friends, John and Char, have owned a vineyard nearby for ten years and they let us borrow lugs for the harvest and will come to lend a hand. It was a near giddy experience to drive down the highway behind our truck full of lugs.  The grape harvest in Virginia was officially underway and we were finally a part of this challenging but exciting time.  Actually, I believe our Pinot grapes are one of the earliest to be harvested.  I felt so proud to be a part of this Virginia vineyard community as I watched our lugs head toward the mountains in the distance. 

The sun was scorching hot today, the last day our grapes are attached to their mother vine.  The near blistering rays were streaming down on us, on the grapes, shriveling, nearly simmering our tender Pinot fruit.  It was one of the hottest days of the summer.  Only one more day... please give them a rest from this sun.  I pleaded for a break, for them not to shrivel any more than they already had.  Right about noon, the sun directly above me, I was walking through the vines, unclipping the netting in  preparation for tomorrow.  I felt the cool shadow of a cloud above... ah, at least a moment's break from the scalding sun.  I looked up.  I stopped.  Above me, directly above the vineyard, and only above the vineyard stretched this long white cloud.  It hung above us for nearly three hours, like a mid-day Milky Way.  It was the only cloud in the sky and it was shading my vines. I do not recall, ever, such a singular long cloud that hung in the air for hours... One of life's little miracles for which I offered my gratitude.

Tomorrow... Tomorrow
We Harvest Tomorrow

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