Wine Making


The Winery WorkOut – Pressing Day 3

The grape skins have now finished a month of diligent duty – imparting every last possible drop of their flavors to the juice. When it’s time to push them out, there’s no substitute for the shovel and a human being sweating away, one scoop at a time.  John dons his wet suit several times in the day to work from inside the tanks. Helpers on the outside operate the press, shout warnings and make the day shorter with humorous asides, benign local gossip and valuable advice. Since the atmosphere in the confined tank is mostly carbon dioxide, it’s reassuring to […]


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 […]


In the Midst of Everything – Tartes! 5

“Everything” now is about preparation for harvest.  Parcel inspections, maturity tests, last minute trimming… cleaning vats and tubes, dry runs of pumps and cooling systems, organizing equipment and helpers… In the midst of “everything” it is an astounding fruit year.  We’ve been blessed by an extraordinary season’s end: sunny, warm, dry, breezy – perfect. And thus, more everything just came in around the harvest moon: wild peaches, figs, hazelnuts, pears, some of the apples… Even the oaks could be heard in the night silence, releasing their acorns like pensive, fertile drops of rain. Time of abundance.   We have to […]


Apparition in the Vineyard 5

Over the past century France has acquired the veneer of a rather secular country.  But deep in the veins of the rural places there is a quiet yet undeniable veneration of the land, and with it an ancient connection to the Mother of Them All. Those latecomers, the Christians, often built female deity shrines on the sites of Roman female deity shrines; they in turn often built theirs on Druidic earth goddess sites.  Some say there is a magnetic energy in these places. August 15th 2014.  Here on the hilltop it was the Feast day of the Blessed Mother. A […]


A Vat of One’s Own 2

The wine business often seems dominated by men.  But long before Jesus made his winemaking debut at Cana, there were women at the helm.  Like Oeno.  Mere mortal, yes, but also a descendent of Dionysus, (god of the grape harvest and ritual madness).  Oeno was renowned for her skill in turning water into wine.  Naturally, she was carried off to war by the Trojans to keep them supplied. This century is showing up differently.  At our recent village council elections, the candidate mayor was determined to fill some of his seats with vigneronnes (women grape-farmers) because of their important and […]


Vineyard in Flower 4

The perfume is subtle, wafting lightly in aromatic episodes.  A vineyard in flower is delicate, in more ways than one. The clusters of green “buttons” (the future flowers) appeared a couple of weeks ago.  Now we understand why May is such a hold-your-breath month.  The weather needs to be stable and reasonably warm, and hopefully rather dry so the buttons can give way to flowers and the flowers have a chance to pollinate.   Last year flowering happened in June, after the coldest May on record.  The bees were not happy. But this Spring has been lovely.   The flowers – tiny, […]


Our First Gold 10

It never even crossed my mind to wish.  You spend your energy trying to make something, often in the dark, not quite sure where it’s all going.  Then suddenly a light snaps on. You’re actually on a path. Our First Gold Medal.  From the Concours de Bordeaux, for La Tourbeille 2012. When we recovered from the surprise and stopped hopping up and down like six-year-olds, we took a look back at 2012.    A few moments from that vintage: A good vintage.  Many wonderful helpers along the way. Thanks to all of you who walked with us, when we couldn’t […]


Vigor in the Vineyard 3

My early appreciation for vigor was shaped by President John F. Kennedy.  It seemed every speech was lit up by the word, pronounced vigorously as – “vigah.”  “Vigah” was etched in my childhood mind as a cardinal virtue, invoking images of all that is robust, strong, healthy, shining, vibrant, confident, competitive. Vigor is also relevant in a vineyard.  At first glance, I thought of JFK and assumed vigor was synonymous with desirable.   But apparently, not quite. End of May and our oenologue, Francoise, came by yesterday for the first inspection of the season. After the problems of last May (cold […]


The Cruellest Month

The farmer’s wife:  “Ca me fatigue.  Everywhere this green, starting up all over again.  It’s exhausting.”   I laugh automatically and compliment her self-effacing wit.  She with her lifetime of fieldwork, not to mention green thumb and meticulous flower garden. But she won’t have it.  She insists her favorite season is the onset of winter. Hard to fathom.  What could be more heartening than the first signs of spring? Intoxicating, thrilling, joy-inducing… one can think of a dozen words for typical reactions to April.   But “fatigue”?   Is she in a secret club with T.S. Eliot? Everywhere we turn, the world is […]


All Hallows’ Eve in the Winery 5

Halloween and Pressing Day: costumes, pitchforks, bloody red stains, spooky stories. It’s not my favorite wine making activity. People are always reminding you of someone they knew who died from asphyxiation clearing out a vat. Plus the person who tried to rescue them.  And it’s always something extra horrible like a father and his devoted son. The first part, raking mounds of grape skins out of the vat – is just hard work. But it always catches me in the solar plexus when John folds himself like a circus contortionist to crawl through the tiny tank door.  Then the drama […]