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



A Day in the Life of... Harvest!

These months of summer are an endless circle of vineyard labors, and before we can catch our breath, the season of harvest sweeps us away into the bowels of the tank room, the crush pad and the barrel room where we swirl a dance of alchemy, turning grapes into wine.  At times I feel like a whirling dervish.

At this moment I am actually catching that elusive breath, sitting just off the crush pad, bright fuscia mums on the table, sipping coffee under the cool autumn sun.  Nathan and Charlie, a fellow grower and good "vineyard friend," are pressing our second harvest of Pinot Noir that is being pumped into a stainless steel tank.  If Charlie had not volunteered to lend a hand, then I would be doing what he is doing and not writing this blog, so "Cheers to Charlie" for helping out today and the many other days he has brought his talents, energy and interesting conversation onto our crush pad! 

With all our grapes in and only a couple more varieties of incoming fruit from neighboring vineyards, all our focus and energies are here at the winery.  The juice we have just pressed will sit in the tank for a couple of days until it is completely settled out, at which time it will be pumped into barrels, some old, some new, and begin its long journey in the darkness of French oak as it undergoes a multitude of molecular changes and soaks in a beautiful, lightly toasted wood fragrance.  Next summer it will be ready to be bottled, then aged several months in those bottles and finally released as our 2013 vintage.  I feel the vines are beginning to show more maturity and my instinct tells me this very well could be our best vintage yet.  We will have to wait another year to find out how these lovely clusters of fruit will taste as wine!

The Burgundian grapes of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are one of the first grapes to be harvested here in Virginia, so our season here at Ankida ends earlier than most. For many growers, the season is far from over. The later ripening varieites such as those from Bordeaux often hang well into October. These growers' battle continues as I write this, monitoring for pests and disease, measuring for sugar and acid levels.  For us however, our time in the vineyard now consists of leisurely strolls simply for pleasure, or snipping off underripe secondary clusters with which we will make jelly. We reminisce on the months past and observe the canes as they senesce and fade into their winter slumber. Will this winter be hard on them, giving us temperatures below zero that would possibly freeze and split the trunks?  Will it be laden with snowfalls that will offer a slow nitrogen soak?  Will it offer just the right amount and length of cold to kill off some of the insects that have been increasing in numbers?  And when spring arrives, it all begins anew, as we carry with us what we have learned from this season and apply it to the next... a continual learning funnel that pours forth every year a renewed hope for "that perfect vintage."

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