Out in the cuts

Here in Carneros I enjoy living close to the country. As I write this, I look out of my bedroom window and watch a covey of young quail peck their way through a field looking for food.

It sometimes seems I can’t walk anywhere without flushing a jack rabbit from the bushes. I’ve run into several snakes, even catching one, and one of my favorite parts of sitting out on the patio as night falls is watching the owls come swooping out of their roosts while making their haunting and weird calls.

One night last week I was up late. I had had a cup of coffee late in the day and the result was I couldn’t sleep. I was up at around 3 a.m. watching a Sherlock Holmes show on PBS, and kinda dozing off when I was snapped awake by a blood-chilling series of howls and shrieks. A pack of coyotes was running past our house letting lose a cacophony of snarls, yelps and vicious sounding growls. I jumped out of my chair and grabbed a spotlight, but when I flashed the field with the light all the noise stopped.

All I could see, at the furthest limit of the light, was just a row of coyote eyes staring back at me and shining in the night. I thought about grabbing my .22 and taking a few potshots at them, but shooting into the night at a vague target is never really smart. Instead I just watched them as one-by-one the coyotes turned away from the light and walked off into the vineyards.

Diary of a cellar rat: Another harvest here already

A cluster of Pinot Noir undergoing verasion.

It seems so cliché to express surprise at the steady march of time and seasons. Everyone always seems to agree when one exclaims, “July is already over? How did that happen?” I guess that’s human nature.

How does it happen? But it does. The vines that stood barren, just naked stalks and dead tendrils hanging on wires beneath cold, flat February skies have once again turned verdant and full of life. Clusters of grapes that were just small green pebbles a month ago are already changing color or going through the process of verasion.

I remember making copies at the winery office in March and looking at a calendar and thinking to myself of all the time I had until harvest came around once more. Here we are in August, and all that time that has passed seems like a blur.

I am becoming more familiar with my new career and new industry. It feels good to be getting ready for harvest. This is the big time of our profession in the wine industry. It is something that have realized that if I continue in this industry my life will always be in one of three stages: before harvest, during harvest and after harvest.

This year appears to be about a month behind normal. Because of an unseasonably cool summer that has felt as if it’s been early June since, well, early June, the grapes are behind in their ripening. I guess it means I likely will get a full Labor Day weekend, but may not get a Thanksgiving holiday.

I’m looking forward to this year’s harvest. I do love the excitement and the rush. I also am looking forward to working harvest in my new position at the winery and learning much more about winemaking.

Still though, there is always plenty of work in the cellar. Last week I was filling barrels with a few other colleagues when swarms of small midge like insects fell upon the winery. The bugs crawled through out hair, down our shirts and got into our equipment as well as the wine. I’ve now filled barrels in 100 degree heat, in pouring rain, light snow and now hordes of insects.