With a turn of a leaf, harvest is over. I haven’t had a moment to sit down and write since my time has been well spent in the cellar each day for the past two and a half weeks – up with the sun & down with the sun. We had seven consecutive days of receiving fruit at the winery from the three different Crus and our work has continued with the fermentations. The day before harvest, people from both sides of Lauren’s family gathered within the gates of the Estate to celebrate the beginning of the new vintage. The group branched out from parents to aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins, cousins of cousins, friends of cousins, everyone was here. We congregated on the crush pad of the winery next to the towering stainless steel equipment that was clean and resting before the big day. Romain, Lauren’s husband retrieved a magnum of Cremant sparkling wine from the back and entered the big circle with his wife. The two of them gave a toast, thanking everyone for their support and their time to travel to help jumpstart the beginning of the vintage, that’s what I assumed anyway. I had met all the family members at this point, as none of them spoke any English and we all kindly passed smiles. We held our glasses up and cheered ‘Santé!’ before the bubbling Burgundy hit our lips.
We sat at a long table within the winery, next to the barrel cellar that was illuminated behind sliding glass doors by dim lights tucked below each barrel row. The big beams above us cast faint shadows across the table, over the dishes being passed and the sea of stemware. This is the table we were to eat each lunch and dinner together, everyday, for the duration of harvest. I soon learned that the family had also come to help – this was the fruit sorting crew, these were the helping hands.
Day 1 – The next morning, we all rose with the sun. Hot espressos, fresh baguettes, homemade jams and butter scattered the same table we sat at the night before in the cellar. As golden hour commenced and the suns beams lit up the morning, the first truck load of fruit arrived, bringing fruit in from the Estate property of Brouilly. From the crush pad, the fruit made its way across the sorting tables, lined with family members, laughing and sharing stories, whose job was to sort out raisins and any damaged fruit. Based on Lauren’s preference, the fruit was either destemmed or left whole cluster depending on ripeness. Then, the fruit was loaded into a stainless steel bin that rolled into the winery and hydraulically tilted to pour the fruit onto the bottom of the ‘giraffe’ conveyer belt that takes the fruit and drops it into the top of each tank. We filled our first cuve (tank) to the brim, alternating layers of whole cluster and destemmed berries.
Day 2 – We received fruit from Moulin-A-Vent and from Brouilly, filling our next two cuves. We also hand selected clusters to layer into two Amphorae (small clay fermenters) with whole berries. The plan – five day cold maceration with pump overs and punch downs, as temperatures heat up, we delestage to control temperature and supply oxygen to the yeasts in the fermentations.
Day 3 – We began the morning by filling the Bois – the Bois is a large wooden tank, beautifully designed to act as a neutral wood fermenting tank. The one lot of Cote de Brouilly was designated for the Bois. We started our punch downs and pump overs on the first tank we received of Brouilly and the other two lots we received from day 2. We inoculated the Amphorae as we had no method of keeping it cold at this time to delay fermentation from starting on its own. Lauren’s style of winemaking utilizes the abilities we have to cool the fermentations before they take off. Cooling the fermentations stall the yeast from starting to metabolize the sugars that are in the grapes and lets the weight of the grapes slowly start to seep out the juice at the bottom of the tank, allowing this juice to mingle with the skins of the grapes, increasing the color concentration. The Amphorae are too small for the cooling system we had, so we started the fermentation earlier than we were expecting. On this day, we saw rain. It is very unusual in California to see rain within the harvest season. Rain can act as a big threat during this time, leading to mold developing with the clusters such as botrytis. We were lucky enough to have winds come quickly after, drying out any remaining moisture in the vineyards.
Day 4 – We received Beaujolais grapes to make our Rose. These grapes went straight to the Press to minimize skin contact and color saturation. We continued to punch down and pump over our cold soaking lots and Amphorae and inoculated our first tank of Brouilly.
Day 5 – We started the day by racking the Rose. When we pressed the Rose the day before, the first pressing of the grapes can incorporate sediment of seeds and skins. With time, these particles settle to the bottom, and the wine itself rests on top. Racking simply removed the clear wine from the top of the heavier layer of sediment at the bottom. We continued with our daily pump overs and punch downs as we filled two more tanks with Estate Brouilly fruit and inoculated the first Moulin-A-Vent lot.
Day 6 – We started the morning with our cap management of pump overs and punch downs and processed more Brouilly fruit. We spent the afternoon inoculating a few lots that were ready. The work day spread from 7am to 8pm, the longest day so far, and it was Lauren’s birthday. Once the floors were swept clean, we popped some champagne to celebrate.
Day 7 – In the morning, the last of the Moulin-A-Vent arrived and was filled into the last tank. We added a few heaps of fruit into the Amphorae to find a little more wiggle room for the extra grapes that couldn’t fit into the tank. Adding some new grapes to the Amphorae only will extend the fermentation time, adding sugar, also increasing the time for extraction, yum! As we cleaned up the crush pad for the last time, a local restaurant was setting up lunch near the barrel room – on the menu – tete de veau, veal head.
I want to pay some respect to a beautiful piece of French culture that I am in love with… the bread. I don’t even want to think about how many baguettes I have consumed being here. We eat them with every meal – with jam, nutella, meats, cheese, everything is accompanied by a baguette, which is so wonderful. I was lucky enough to meet Romain’s friend, Emul, who is the winemaker at Hamilton Russell in South Africa. He left me with the most valuable piece of knowledge I have learned within the first few weeks in France which is, “the fist six hours of the life of a baguette is glorious, after that, it becomes a weapon.” This statement is oh so true.
I wanted to include some extra thoughts. I stumbled across an entry I wrote down four weeks before I left for France. As we completed harvesting here and I am approaching my week four mark in France, it is eye opening to read over again. I hope if anything, you find an ounce of encouragement in it as I do reading it again.
July 17th, 2015 – I leave 4 weeks from today. I am getting very excited as the nerves are awakening but also suppressing. Im currently working at the tasting room, its been a very slow day as it’s 3pm and I have seen one customer and sold just a single bottle.
I am looking to start my blog. A blog without a name. An unbranded blog, an unbranded untold winemaking story of a young 20 something year old girl seeking to make wine in foreign places. To learn, to taste, to see, to meet and greet and stay and drink. To make friends and eat meals and dip toes in unknown waters and walk vineyards that are older than her. Looking to develop a story, to unravel a story that is wound up already, ready to be told. It’s a vulnerable place to be in when you want to share your writings of a story you are living but haven’t written any stories in awhile. Its nerve racking to open up and share words like these to people just like you, whoever you are reading this, but i hope you will be kind to these words and open to the experiences that are to come. I hope you are forgiving of the errors in life and in grammar on page. I hope you are reading though, and listening and sharing and sparking conversion to give advice or take it. I hope you are freely diving in around and ultimately just absorbing encouragement to be brave, to go out and discover, and learn and seek and explore. I have been living with the anticipation to start living this journey. And its a terrible place to be in. It isn’t fair to waste beautiful days scared of whats to come or be anxious for it. But it is important to fulfill each day with what you want for yourself. Whether its love, health, a deeper sense of self, or to create.
I think the only fear I really have of leaving is to be vulnerable to a language I do not know, but that I would love to learn. And by learning, it opens doors to bigger things, to things that provide an understanding and replace fear with a sense of familiarity. Isn’t that the root of fear anyways? The fear of something that is unknown or something that isn’t familiar? But if everything in our life is found to be known and familiar where is the chance to grow and learn and stretch ourselves? How do we become bigger? How do we learn and expand to absorb new information to share with others? It’s a funny thing that the more your learn the more you realize you don’t know. You open doors to spaces you didn’t even know existed.
I have found myself in a place of constant pursuit, of something in the unknown distance. I have been pushing forward into the unknown of the future but with a sense of comfort and confidence which I find strange. I have been tapping on doors, pursuing the small breaks to pursue something bigger, something more powerful. I have been raised with the idea there is a plan for me to fulfill, and I have found comfort in knowing that every turn, every decision is for a reason. As I push forward, it has opened doors into right directions, into open places ready to move to purpose. This is where I find confidence. Even in my fear of traveling this Fall, I find comfort in knowing I would only be on my way if not for a reason, a big reason. A reason with a purpose to fulfill. A reason to learn, and strengthen and grow to teach and lead and share with others one day.
Wild snapdragons at Moulin-A-Vent.