This week I'm going to take a break from the recap of the 2009 harvest to talk a little bit about what is happening at the winery right now. I promise though I'll be back to reminiscing next week.
Winter and spring have a very different feeling at the winery then does the late summer and fall. There's none of the clamor and fervor and anxiety of the harvest and instead it is replaced with a muted calm as the vines sleep for winter. The dormant vines need little attention as they save their energy for budbreak as the spring approaches. The wines in the cave are also sleeping, as it is often referred to, as they age and the molecules that form the taste and shape of the wine evolve into increasingly complex combinations. So the work the slows down and a winery that was understaffed with 12 crew members becomes comfortable with just two. Inside the cave there is little work to be done. The barrels must continue to be topped and a watchful eye is kept on them. Racking takes place more often than during the harvest. The pace of the lab tech's work continues as usual as a constant vigil of the developing wines must be kept. The winemaker can take this time to focus now on past vintages and creating the blends that will constitute future releases. This is an opportunity to bottle because of the lull in other commotion. The only problem is that it takes a large crew to bottle and the seasonal harvest crew has been disbanded. Aside from the occasional bottling though the crush pad is peaceful which I like because the surroundings feel more pronounced. There is this incredible shift in the hillside vineyards that line the valley from fall to winter as the rain revives the sun-dried grasses and turns the hills an emerald green and the vines conversely shift from green to brown as they shed their leaves and the shoots become wooden. In the vineyard workers prune the vines, removing all of the one-year-old wood from the arms of the vine so that when the buds start to blossom next spring the energy the vine expends will be channeled into fewer bunches of grapes. Here and there you can see a white pillar of smoke in a vineyard as the resulting piles of twigs are set ablaze. The air is crisp and chilled but the sun is warming and pleasant. The last rains will be over soon. It's a patient time of the year and in the coming weeks the juices of the plant will again begin to flow. The buds will break and the transformation of the plant will begin again as the cycle is renewed. Although it seems a long way off, I'm sure harvest will be upon us again before we know it.