- I cannot sleep. Wine equipment awaits me in the car. Untold microbes cover everything, bent on ruining my future wine. Yesterday, I wine-tasted on Keuka Lake’s western shore. Today, on Halloween, I pick up my vignoles juice.
- I stumble through my hangover and the microscopic Microtel room, dress and go outside. Querulous glances follow my return with tanks, tubes and chemicals. I sterilize everything and bundle us back into the car.
Snow flurries whip the windshield as we drive to Ravines Winery for a morning tasting. Worries flood my head. Will my vingoles still be at Fall Bright? Has too much time passed since their October 2nd harvest? Have they over-sulfited the must to keep it stable? Will the three hour drive back home kill it?
We stop at Ravines’ Winery. Their wines are all dry and well crafted. This encourages me, reminds me of the quality out here, and distracts me from the task. Fall Bright is the next road up. Our Buick crawls and wheezes up the hill, passing rows of vines and mismatched signs. I get the hint and pull to the side of the road. Get out into the cold and cut a line straight for the shop door.
Once inside, wine wares fill every inch of the small, unlit shop. Two older women emerge from what seems to be a kitchen. “I am here to pick up the vignoles?” “What?” “I called yesterday to confirm my order for seven gallons of vignoles.” “Oh, yes, yes.” Once I pay, Marcy takes me outside and around back, with my tank in hand and an extra milk jug. We face a wall with plastic tubes and spigots sprouting from it like a drunk octopus. She sets my tank on the ground, grabs the Vignoles 8 tube and begins to fill my tank.
I ask about the For Sale sign on the road. Marcy explains that Tom wants to retire after growing grapes for thirty-plus years. Thus Fall Bright’s 10.4 acres, nineteen grape varieties (with eight adjoining acres) and the three bedroom, 1,600 square foot home, attached garage, winemakers shop, and “negoitable equiptment” (ahem) are all on sale for a mere $495,000. Tempting as it may be, Fall Bright will have to wait until I make this wine and my inevitable fortune with it.
Tropical fruit aromas waft about the chilly air. There’s no smell of sulfur or spoilage. Although the must looks dark and hazy, I trust that fermenting and fining will clear it up. But should wine be crystalline? Fall Bright’s name even emphasizes the winemaker’s obligation to make their wine “fall brightly”: as if purity of flavor and transparency in the glass were inseparable for white wines. If I do not clear the wine of its haze, could it really break into extra, volatile fermentations? Stop worrying.
Once the tank and milk jug are full, I go back inside. My wife is busy discussing the various bottling devices for sale with the other lady. So I go back out to get acquainted with my vignoles vines.
Fall Bright’s spot on Keuka Lake is good for certain grapes. The hill’s aspect towards the sun provides warmth through most of the day and bounces more light from the water. Fall Bright’s proximity to the lake also fends off frosts. The 186 foot deep basin retains the summer’s warmth long enough to reach harvest in the Fall and budding in the Spring, and, once cooled, ventilates the vines through the Summer. All this is thanks to the convection current of warm air rising along the slope. Drainage on such a Buick-beating grade must also be decent.
With wife waiting, I run down the hill, the vignoles vines are somewhere near the bottom. , I find it unmarked. Since vignoles is a hardier plant its gold leaves still clinging to vine weeks after harvest has ended.
Will the juice survive the car ride? Or will the jostling oxidize the hell out of it…