harvester and wagon: "there... no, I meant, there!"

No Tears Winemaking, October 2015 12

No tears this year. Sweat, sore muscles, stained hands, a little blood, but all scars reaped in joy.  It’s the year we’ve been waiting for. The year when our handiwork in the vines gets an exponential boost from legendary weather and a spanking new extension to the winery. Four harvests this season – a far cry from our pampered, one-harvest, one-vat in 2011. After the Rosé hand harvest, the Merlots arrived in their faithful manner: poised, plump, sweet. I was out in the vineyard directing the harvester while the enthusiastic team in the winery prepared for the wagonloads. And true […]

Rosé 2015 13

“Rendez-vous 7:00 am, top of the hill, vieilles vignes.” We’ve hardly begun and a thunderstorm breaks loose. “Lightning overhead, keep your snippers away from the wires,” we warn our neighbors as they arrive. No novices they, kitted out in professional rubberwear.  I’m soaked and cold in ten minutes. Lightning, generosity, helping hands, ancient roots. Thus begins l’Esprit de Jeanne, Rosé 2015. A team of twelve to start, including Genevieve’s friends from INSEEC in Bordeaux: Victor of France, Astrid of Germany and Kela of Hawaii. We are heads down, wet and serious until Henri arrives with his own solution to working […]

Cabernet Franc, Hand Harvest

Rosé 2014 – Harvest by Hand 2

Incredible weather, healthy grapes.  The year to try our hands at Rosé. It wasn’t worth it to call in a harvester for a small quantity (only 1000 liters…) so we opted for an old fashioned hand harvest.  As we began snipping, the eldest of our team piped: “Haven’t done this in 30 years!” Indeed.  Except for wines with big budgets and very large teams, (Medoc, St. Emilion…) hand harvesting in the rest of the Bordeaux region has almost gone the way of folklore.  Easy to understand why: labor intensive, costly, time consuming… and a little tough on your back and […]

Valiant Cabernet Sauvignon 3

Day and night for the past week, the harvesters have resounded through the valley; the entire region mobilized to vendange before another rain. No time for a second cup of coffee, our harvester started before dawn. A day of sunshine. Good cheer. Beautiful, juicy grapes. Improvisation and perpetual motion at the chai. And when we say “artisanal” sometimes it means running into the field and finding an old post and some rope to hold the whole thing together. All in, we close up the brimming tank and get to work. Post script: Et voila, the valiant Cabs just “before.’ And […]

Merlots 2013 3

The whole village didn’t show up, it just seemed that way. In the middle of a season that local newspapers are pronouncing catastrophique, neighbors dropped by to check in, swap stories, lend a hand. Wilfrid from Carbonneau loaned us his pompe à marc and his characteristic serenity.  Alfred from Roberterie offered philosophy and the wisdom of choosing a benevolent insurance agent.  Laurent from Haut Redon came with the latest in machinery.  When the tractor and wagon pulled up, out popped the village Mayor, his father and our driver of grapes. 8 tons of Merlot. With the grapes safely inside the […]

Harvest Day 2012

After much deliberation – will the weather hold? will the grapes be ready? – we pushed our luck hoping for higher maturity, and pushed Harvest Day back to October 6th. The team gathered in the winery before dawn, and at first light Denis set out on his harvester.  Wilfred, our good friend from Chateau Carbonneau followed with his tractor, and in a half hour returned with two tons of luscious grapes. The first load is always the most frenzied as we figure how to coordinate our tasks. While John and Wilfred attended the arrival,         Genevieve managed […]

It’s a Girl! Harvest Day, Part 2

The wagon loads keep coming in and one especially fertile parcel is providing much more fruit than anticipated. Since the farmer estimates volume with idiosyncratic algorithms to translate surface area into potential tonnage, we’re wondering about his apparent back of the envelope advanced calculus. Plus we’re still haunted by the late rains, so the oenologue’s worrying buzzes in our ears: are the berries too juicy? Will the wine be too wet?  This leads to a heated debate about “bloodletting” (letting some of the juice run off to improve concentration) and the farmer howls with disapproval.  You’d think we were talking […]

It’s a Girl! Harvest Day, Part 1

September 20th. After weeks of agonizing, Vintage 2011 arrived healthy, sweet and pink as can be; a dainty 8 tons of potential intoxicating delight.  It was a gorgeous morning, crisp, brilliant. I found the farmer in the choicest parcel aloft his giant blue harvester, gazing over the rows of fruit he’d tended all year. Pierre, 19 year old son of our neighbor, Wilfrid (godfather to this venture) deftly curtsied the tractor and the first tons of berries poured in. A short haul through the fields of merlot, past the bull who was nursing a hoof, back to the chai. Greetings from the […]