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



Stomping The Night Away

With the pressing of the Cabernet Sauvignon last week for our new Rockgarden Cellars label, more on that later, Nathan now has all of the 2012 vintage tucked safely away in dozens of French oak barrels.  While resting in these barrels, the molecules that make up wine perform their secret magic.  Just what goes on inside those barrels over the winter is a bit of a mystery to me.  How can it go into the barrel tasting so raw, for lack of a better word, and come out the following year transformed into a luxurious, complex wine of elegance?  I marvel at it all.

In this image you can see the "bladder" in our press as we released some of the water from it.  As it fills, this expandable rubber bladder presses against the perforated side walls of the press and provides a beautifully gentle pressing, perfect for our red grapes, especially our delicately flavored Pinot Noir. This gentle press helps to prevent the over-pressing of the seeds that can inject a bitterness into the wine if pressed too hard. This bladder press however, falls a bit short in the pressing of our Chardonnay or any other white grape. You see, red wines are made by fermenting the grapes first, then pressing after the juice has set on the skins for weeks.  For white wine, we press the grapes before fermenting, dumping the whole clusters into this delicate press.  We found we were losing too much juice in the unpressed clusters near the top and bottom.  This press just wasn't going to cut it... unless! We decided we had to pre-crush the Chardonnay clusters before tossing them into the press.  This would break up the individual berries enough so the press could squeeze out the juice.  But how??  Hmmm...  I've got it!!  I'll do the Lucy routine! Turn up the music!  Give me my Rolling Stones station on Pandora.  Some water.  Some wine.  Let's go to town, guys!
My red boots go to work!
And so we did... an afternoon session and an evening one.

View from the crushpad during my afternoon stomp
I donned my red rubber winery boots, and one 25lb lug at a time, we crushed nearly two tons of fruit.  Nathan and Dennis dumped each lug of grapes into a lightweight tub, two of them side by side, and I stomped (aka danced) away.  I would stomp one, then step into the next while they replaced the stomped one with a new lug of grapes.  I stomped about thirty seconds per tub. Stomp, step, empty... dancing away to some incredible rock'n'roll. We got into a rhythm... dance.. step..stomp... the Stones.. Start Me Up.. stomp, stomp.. water... Learning to Fly.. wine...step ..Hendrix....stomp.. Jumpin Jack Flash....step, stomp, dance, dance, dance. Bring it on! The music was incredible, the energy high, gulping quarts of water, sipping our delicious 2011 Chard throughout. Then... suddenly no more lugs.. all empty!! What?! No more?! No......  I want more! Outside on the crush pad, a stack of empty lugs had been tossed into the night air as we made our way through the 2012 vintage of Chardonnay grapes. I truly didn't want it to end. We should add a warning to the 2012 label... "Caution: You may be overcome with the urge to dance at first sip!" If you could taste in this wine the joy I felt as I stomped away, you will have found a treasure. Cheers to the 2012 Chardonnay! Ahhhh....

The cold room slowly emptying

Ready for more!

Empty lugs tossed with abandon into the dark night!

You can see how dry these grapes are.  We got a wonderful pressing this year,
thanks to The Stomp!

As I sat writing this blog in the pre-dawn hours, I happened to look up from my computer just as daybreak lifted.  And I am so grateful I did.  This morning's sunrise was breathtaking.  I grabbed my camera and ran barefoot onto the cold deck, the wind howling over the mountain range to our north and streaming over the valleys below.  I was once again awestruck by the beauty of nature, while at the same time, this particular morning, humbled by her wrath.  I reflect this beautiful morning in this beautiful place where I am warm and sipping hot coffee, with my electricity that allows me to write this and the internet to send it to you.  And I am surrounded by a warm home and my comforts and possessions and my loved ones.  And I think of the poor souls in lower Manhattan and New Jersey and their burned out homes and flooded towns and no subways or electricity for some time to come.  Many have lost all their material possessions, their homes, treasured family heirlooms,  clothing, everything. My heartfelt thoughts go out to all of those affected by Sandy, the unfortunate ones to feel the full impact of nature at her worst.... a force that can create such wrath, yet bless us with so much beauty.

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