Sunday, September 14, 2008

Guns, Germs & Stainless Steel

GUNS: In this neck of the woods, the general consensus is that people have the right to own guns. I was only somewhat surprised to learn that EVERYONE on staff at the winery owns at least one of them, if only on principle. These guys are by no means card-carrying members of the NRA and our winemaker is even a vegetarian (most of the time he believes its okay to eat fish that have a healthy sustainable population and venison from overpopulated deer that are hunted down). My colleagues enjoy going to shooting ranges and occasionally they hunt. From my winemaker, I learned about Seafood Watch, a non-profit organization that constantly tracks which fish are okay to be eaten due to changing fish populations.

GERMS: Brian, our cellar master, said to us that 80% of winemaking is janitorial. How right he is! Now that the grapes are flowing in (more on that later) much of our day is spent hosing down outdoor areas of the winery, sanitizing the tanks that hold our wine, and cleaning out the hoses that transport the grape juice between any two points. By the end of this adventure, I will surely be a master plumber and I will be able to rival any school janitor in terms of my abilities to clean.

STAINLESS STEEL: We have now received our first shipments of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Grapes arrived in the form of an 18-wheeler hauling four gondolas rolling up to the winery. The vehicle is weighed on a massive truck scale and then dumps each of the gondolas one at a time into our massive press.

Though injecting various types of yeast into the grape juice ferments most of our wine, we are using “wild fermentation” for select wines including our new Sparkling Riesling. Technically this sounds boring. In reality, this means that we are using our bare feet to crush the grapes so that fermentation can take place naturally, as it has for thousands of years. Understandably this may disgust many of you, but despite Gliner’s numerous blisters, all germs and non-wine will be killed off by the alcohol that is a by-product of the fermentation process. (Please check out photos that our winemaker took of us stomping grapes. As Gliner rightfully said, the camera adds ten pounds. I agree and also believe the camera adds ten inches of receding hairline. I assure you I am NOT balding and my hairline is in check, but I removed my baseball cap only seconds before these photos were taken, resulting in a terrible case of hat hair.)

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