Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July 2013 - Part I

July got off to a roaring start in the vineyard.  Very early on the first day of July, I was invited out to have a look at the grapes.

Luscious Sauvignon Blanc grapes in near perfect condition.

When Stanley gets the grape shears out, it's time to start thinking harvest.

My job is always first and foremost to sort through the grapes, removing any imperfections.  If all grapes were as clean as these, I'd be left without a job.  Here's the first of them, ready to go through the crusher. 

Free run . . . the best of the juice.  That's the part that just runs out of the grapes without any pressure.  

One of Stanley's favorite jobs - Lab Technician!  You can read all about the white grape harvest at http://donamakeswine.blogspot.mx/2013/07/sauvignon-blanc-2013.html.  

These happy pictures were made on July 1.  On July 7th it started raining.  Between the 7th and the 22nd of July, we had about 6 1/2 inches of rain.  Not good grape growing weather.  On the 10th we crushed the remainder of the Sauvignon Blanc and the Chardonnay from Jardin Botanico.  

 That's Rosie, Nacho's sister, at the sorting table.  Nacho's mother was supervising from a safe distance.  They are both spending the summer here, glad to be away from the intense heat in Mexicali.  We have certainly enjoyed having them here.  Rosie has been a great partner at the sorting table and for morning walks.

Here's a familiar face to readers of Day by Day.  Antonio is our Number 1 Man.  The only reason we can travel is because we can depend on him to check on the vines during the spring and to top up the barrels in the fall and winter.  Anytime he senses a problem he sends me an email and we work through the issue over the internet.  He is a jewel!  

Homero, the tractor guy, cleaned out under the pecan trees next to the vineyard.  Stanley went down to do some finishing work and found this little hummingbird nest.  

New friends:  Jesus Garcia Garza and his wife Angeles Madero Cantu.  They own Rincon de Montero and want to add a small vineyard to the attractions around the hotel.  They came to our place one evening to have a look at our small operation and then we had dinner with them the following evening at Rincon.  

We don't have a lot of variety in the garden this year, but we do have abundance.  One of the nicest surprises is the bean crop.  Enough beans to have all we want, whenever we want.  

Not much variety in the insect world this summer either, but this guy was particularly handsome.  

I had a thing or two to say about the rain earlier.  Well, this was the view from our front porch on July 18th. It came within two inches of the bottom of the door jamb.  Fortunately, it started receding and didn't come back up.  It washed out some plantings and the steps to the patio, but the tree got a good watering.  

It rained all morning the 19th, but that afternoon the sun came out just long enough to dry out the outdoor furniture.  Good thing because we were expecting company!  The occasion:  Alida's birthday and the 1st Cosecha of the new vineyard she shares with her husband Ernesto.  

 From Left to Right:  Stanley, Ernesto, Alida, their daughter Silke, Eduardo, Annai and her parents Hortensia and Yoyo.  What a cool group.  

Sunset that night was a study in subtlety.  There was nothing subtle about our celebration.  

Alida brought enough food for a small army - all delicious The wine was a sample of what they produced last year. Unfortunately since it was a first harvest there weren't many grapes last year and the birds feasted on those that were there so there wasn't much wine to make. Prospects are much brighter this year.

The next day, July 20th was one of those days that comes along every once in a while and drives people crazy!


First, it rained almost all day. Hortensia and Annai came to the house about 12:00. We had a nice visit. Ernesto showed up about 1:30 with the grapes they had picked that morning. His intention was to make 5 gallons of rose. That's a small request and when I left at 1:45 for the art show, I thought Stanley, Yoyo, and Ernesto were going to crush and press enough grapes to make 5 gallons of wine, and clean the equipment. I visualized Silke, Annai, Hortensia, and Alida supervising or staying at a safe distance according to personal preferences.

More about the Art Show in a separate post.

I didn't count on Annai taking a walk through the vineyard with Stanley where they found Zinfandel grapes beginning to show signs of Nobel Rot. It was really no surprise with all the rain we've had. The surprise was in how fast it had spread. There was a choice to be made. The grapes were not ripe, but they had to be cut immediately or we would lose the whole crop. They decided to cut.

And this is where I need to introduce Annai. She has a Master Degree in Enology. She has studied in France, Spain, and Italy and is presently employed by an import/export company in Copenhagen. She knows her stuff. She was here visiting her parents Hortensia and Yoyo. I wasn't here to witness, but I am told she and her parents cut almost all of the Zinfandel by themselves.

In the rain. Box after box. Over 400 pounds of water soaked berries.

By the time I got home, they had almost finished the sorting. Between berries that were infected and those that were too green to process, we lost about 80 pounds of grapes.

From the remainder we retrieved about 21.5 gallons of juice. The grapes were so soft and so full of water they were oozing out the sides of the press. It was impossible to get more juice. We are processing it as white Zinfandel to reduce the risk of spoilage. Mom would be so proud!

Without Annai, I'm not sure what we would have done. She was so gracious and humble about the whole incident, but to us she was an angel come calling.
Two other angels played an important role.  Jose who works for Ernesto just wouldn't stop.  We can't thank him enough for all his hard work.

And then there was the indefatigable Eduardo.  Everyone else was either stressed out or physically exhausted, or both, but he showed up looking fresh as a daisy with a huge piece of meet and the determination to fix a fabulous dinner.  Even though it was very, very late when we finally sat down to eat, I must admit it was worth the wait.

The following day, Stanley and I cleaned the equipment in the rain and then tried to mop the floor in the winery.  Everything was so muddy it was hard to stay ahead.

Quite frankly, I couldn't wait for sunset.  It did not disappoint.

July was far from the finish line, but I'll put the rest in another entry, July 2013 - Part II.