Katharine Hepburn supposedly said that without discipline there is no life. The older I get the more I understand this to be true.
Harvest time in the WineLife necessitates doing certain specific things over and over again in order to achieve a result. A lot of other career choices demand the same thing. You are a baker, and you have the right temperature and humidity in your bakery; you put the right amount of flour and yeast and water and salt in a bowl; you mix it up and put it in an oven set to 350 degrees (not 354); you bake for 12 minutes (not 13); you make great bread. You perform a set of tasks routinely in order to find certain truths. I do what I do when I do because I’m searching for truth too; and because the wine says so.
At this point in WineTime, we bring in fruit that has very specific flavors and textures, a balance of acid and tannin; we put french oak chips in the bottom of our fermentors to help stabilize color, and we put 1.5 tons of crushed fruit in each box. After cold-soaking for 4-7 days, we start punching down the fermenting must. We punch down 3 times per day (to extract flavor, color, and tannin), and each time we punch down, we taste the boxes to make sure that fermentation is proceeding the way it is supposed to. Each time we taste, we write notes about what we are smelling and tasting because fermentation and maceration (even when the juice has become wine, contact with the skins will move the wine structurally, will add and polish tannins) is a continuum. You cannot know how the end product became the end product without going on and marking this daily journey with it; how can you know when to press the wine unless you know how little or big each daily iteration is?
Pressing is like picking. You get only once chance each year to do it. If you are pressing off just to get a fermentor empty then you care only a certain amount about what you are doing. You press when you HAVE TO press, when the wine says so.
After the press, the wine goes into certain, very specific barrels because those specific barrels give very specific qualities to the wine. And you are in barrel only as long as you NEED to be. Because the wine says so.
Is it any wonder that the earliest and best winemakers were from religious orders? They knew a little something about keeping their mouths shut and doing what they were told.
There’s a time to get cute, and a time to just do the work. I am trying to be the best and most truthful winemaker I can be; devotion to the routine helps me to be able to shepherd this magical process (at least as I comprehend it)…and hopefully make a wine that gives the wine lover that WOW we all search for.