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 see John come up for air once in a while.
The Merlot tank is a giant. More to scoop, more skins to slip around on. But the juice is the color of royal red velvet.
We have to move the skins away from the chai (which will move the delirious wasps away from the wine). Everyone is relieved to get outside for air, even if it means more shoveling.
It’s late October and we’re still wandering around in shorts and sandals, marveling at the luck of this endless summer and the effect on local vineyards. You hear the neighbors murmur under their breath – Vintage 2014 has promise.
One thing we do know. After a month in the dark, the juices are coming out rich, flavorful and concentrated.