Gabriele Rausse Winery 10.1.07

October 1, 2007
Rausse Winery
12:30 PM

On Saturday night over the pool table, I tasted some ‘still fermenting Cabernet (Sauvignon)’ out of a Pellegrino bottle; soft and fizzy, light purple, big tasting but low in alcohol. Wine Pop, perfect for children, roughly the same alcohol content as root beer or soft beers in days gone by. With a twinkle in his eyes, Tim said “it’s really, really good”.

So now it’s Monday and I have arrived to help crush red grapes. The first step seems to be emptying the ‘still fermenting’ stainless vat of Cab Sauv so that there is room for the 4 tons of grapes arriving today (this is the pre-wine I tasted a few evenings ago over pool). We discover a leaking valve at the bottom of the new storage tank; to account for the ever increasing pressure as more wine is pumped in, the valve gets plugged from the inside. While these grapes are from the same vineyard (Piggott, like spigot, outside of Lynchburg) the first harvest was from a field about 90 feet higher in altitude; the brix on the batch from last week were relatively low but the brix on today’s load are perfect. Cheers.

We have lunch outside of sage pasta, sautéed squash from Monticello (TJ’s squash? I ask), Caromont fresh chevre with Tim’s bread, shaved rosemary ham, and sparkling water. I almost ask that we open some wine, but when I realize that all of the work is still ahead of us, I defer to experience. As always we are dutifully attended by dogs, and the autumn weather is dappled and perfect.

Today’s grapes arrive around 3:30 PM in a rented Penske truck. They were harvested this morning by migrant Hispanic workers, probably undocumented Mexicans; Jim Piggott remarks that the pickers work year-round for other wineries, and so he doesn’t have much say in scheduling them for this one-time duty. This year, however, he opted to bring in some delicious BBQ lunch for them, and has been informed that they will be glad to pick for him in the future.

The grapes come off the truck stacked in bright yellow lugs on pallets. Tim uses a tractor and pallet jack to bring them off the truck and slowly down the gravel drive. Our disassembly line begins outside and above the ground level of the winery, where several square windows at waist level open above the vats inside. A sheet of plywood serves as a moveable platform that bridges the open vats and supports the de-stemming machine. Pedro stands bent almost in half, receiving the lugs as they are passed through the window and quickly pulling out leaves and foreign matter before upending each lug into the de-stemmer. The grapes fall directly into the vat below; the stems are discharged and fall through a black plastic chute into handled red tubs. Jim’s wife Tony Piggott and I switch between grabbing the empty lugs to stack them for rinse and emptying the stem tubs into a wheelbarrow. Periodically the wheelbarrow is wheeled past the chicken coop and is emptied onto the vegetable garden in the back, providing (in combination with the spent grapes from presses past) fertilizer and mulch and delineating the garden from the piedmont forest all around.

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~ by a local notion on November 26, 2007.

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