Check your messages, your grapes might have evaporated.
The night before heading to New York State’s Fingerlakes, my cell phone informs me that Fallbright grape growers sent back my seven gallons of cabernet sauvignon. The fruit was junk.
Sure the past weeks of rain worried me. I just had no idea how much of a pain it is to grow cab. sauv. in New York. 2011’s season was too wet, cold, and short for a grape that needs to make it to the end of October.
Undeterred, wife, myself, and my step-dad hit the road. It’s my thirtieth birthday. I will make wine come hell or high tide.
Like my vignoles last year, all that remains are unheard of, cold hardy, hybrid white grapes. That’s because you can store their juice. Whole grapes -the skins of which you need to make reds…red- break down and mold unless fermented soon after picking. So no red wine this year.
En route and on the phone, I ask Marcy what was harvested recently and still in supply. Fresh and available is always better than old and gone. Research (lots of drinking) makes me side with vidal blanc. Maybe this time I won’t blow up my wine.
But it’s my birthday in wine country. Drink now, work tomorrow.
The morning finds me waking rough in a Mad Men motel in Geneva on Seneca Lake. We breakfast, pack, and drive to Keuka Lake.
Vineyards and forested ravines roll past us, all fired in fall colors. Yet in between, the agricultural exodus has left its mark. Farms lie fallow. Some cow pastures still mill with moos. But our consumer cult has cut us from creating anything.
Winemaking remains a respectable, elite enough pursuit for mid life crises. Also, drinking it in wine country is a worthy excursion. But farming? Herding? Shoppers want convenience and cheapness in their milk and bread, not a local experience. We don’t care what country or cheap labor our eggs come from.
But enough soap box.
Keuka Lake hits us with its autumnal beauty. The crawl up to Fallbright is insanely pretty.
Once our jaws return to their closed and upright positions, I go to pick up my vidal blanc juice. Although a wet, not-great-ish year, frost has held off, so I know vidal wasn’t damaged this week. The fuzzy caterpillar of weather prognostication at Fallbright’s entrance tells me so.
So I lug my jugs back to the octopus-wall of juice tubes and wait.
Seven gallons churn into two sterilized pales. Vidal was picked only five days ago. It looks and smell fresh. I trust Fallbright. They only grow grapes for home winemakers. This isn’t some winery’s leftovers.
Once full of must, I drop my tanks in the rental.
I go back to the shop, pay, and stumble, giddily down to the last strand of Vidal vines.
I can’t help but video-document my new babies:
I just need to figure out what style or styles I want from 2011’s vidal, given it’s mild, pleasant characteristics. That means picking the right yeast(s), corks, bottles, steps and not screwing up their timing…like last time.
The fuzzy caterpillar shall protect me.