Monday, November 23, 2009

A Crush Course

Considering the better part of our drive yesterday was through fog and pouring rain, it was nice to wake up and see that we were merely overcast - and, hopefully, not due for a drenching. I'd really been looking forward to this harvest event as I'd never been able to make it before despite having been an adoptive parent at Red Rooster for about three years now. Tyrant had been to the party a couple of Falls back and he'd waxed glowingly about the fun to be had. This year's harvest party started off with coffee and Tim Horton's while all the adoptive parents were told a bit about the viticulture process at the winery and how the year's growing season had been.

As informative as hearing about the various components of the winemaking process was during the day from winery manager, vineyard coordinator and, particularly, winemaker Karen Gillis, we were all anxious to actually get out into the vineyard and pick us some grapes. All of the adopted rows are located just outside the winery's tasting room and they were fully laden with this year's Malbec grapes. Most of the winery's grapes had already been picked but they deliberately left our rows unpicked with this event in mind. October had seen an early, hard frost this year, so the grapes were at a point where they were no longer ripening. We were told that, once the leaves have started falling off after the frost, the vines are no longer giving any additional nourishment to the grapes. It was definitely time to get the grapes picked and crushed.

This playing "farm boy" proved fun - not that I'm really kidding myself. But for the moment, there just weren't enough grapes to keep us going. We had all the grapes harvested within the hour. Now that might have been a good thing since a light rain started falling on all our efforts. The unbridled enthusiasm might have started to wane had the rain been harder and earlier.

I'd be remiss if I didn't admit to the fact that I had to nibble on some of those grapes. They were just calling out my name, saying "taste me, taste me" - or at least the row had my name on it and how could I not try some. It was surprising how sweet they were. I wouldn't have figured that you could throw a bunch of Malbec grapes on the table and just chow down.

Once all the grapes had been picked, we wandered over to the winery building where there were a couple more introductions to both staff and processes.

We watched as a couple bins of Cabernet Franc grapes (that had been picked the day before) were crushed. It was interesting to see just how much of the skins and stems actually get pumped along with the juice for the initial fermentation. I'll leave how that big machine separates fruit from stem and "determines" how much of the grape and vine continues on to the next stage to the engineers and winemakers. There's no doubt that there's a bit of hefty work involved though. Our little hour in the vineyard doesn't begin to give a real idea of all the work involved. Picking is romantic. Drinking and tasting is romantic. Cleaning and lugging is work.

And that may be why we got to move on to the wining and dining aspect of the day. There was a grand little lunch buffet supplied and there was no limit to the wine. We tasted our way through four wines that included barrel samples and my favourite, the recently crushed viognier. I know they told us the technical winespeak term for the early-stage wine, but I forgot to write it down. Silly me. Since this is the first vintage of Viognier for Red Rooster, we weren't able to sample before and after versions, but I'll have to try and remember the distinct juiciness and sweetness when I try some of the finished product - because you know I want to.

Although it might seem a tad strange, I don't actually get to add a bottle to The List because we were simply trying a number of wines as they were being brought around. The boys and I didn't finish a specific bottle. I did, however, order a box of wines (thanks to a brief relaxation of the No Buy Leash by Boo).

We might not have got the chance to jump in the barrel and stomp away at the grapes, but I definitely hope that we can make the spring pruning party and come to see our adoptive baby again.

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