Harvest time is the most beautiful kind of hell. It is grueling; it is full of moments of clenching indecision; it takes you away from your family for 18 hours a day, and leaves the remaining moments that aren’t devoted to a tidbit of sleep, full of self-recrimination and self-loathing. But…in the end, you get this beautiful thing…this liquid treasure that carries all your best hopes and prayers for purity. That’s if you didn’t screw things up. If you paid attention. If you curried the favor of the right gods. And also, most importantly, if you worked with the right people.
Like me, Craig Ploof learned about winemaking by doing winemaking. I met Craig first as a member of the Steven Kent wineclub years ago, we became friends, he wanted to learn to make wine and I wanted to make better wine. A few years ago, he started helping me while he had a full-time gig. And knowing a good and dedicated thing, I hired him to help me full-time. It takes a particularly morbid and self-aware person to plan ahead for the worst possible scenarios, and being only partially morbid (and only under the influence of too much Scotch), I didn’t plan for the love of my life to get sick and for our lives to change forever.
The grapes don’t know the troubles of men and come in when they are ready. And thankfully for us, Craig was ready too. Even more than normal, he has worked like a dog, putting in an ungodly number of hours, and making some really nice wine. More than these things – important as they are – he has allowed me to be with my wife and kids, charting our course through these fucked-up waters.
I will never be able to repay him for this.
Over the course of the next 18 months, we’ll be whittling a redwood down to a finely sharpened toothpick as Craig Ploof, my assistant winemaker, and I move through 213 barrels of 2013 Bordeaux varieties in 23 separate barrel groups to get to the perfect 20 that will become Lineage 2013. There are many ways of tackling the complexity inherent in this task, but I want to be sure that in getting to our
Making Mock blend
answer we don’t miss out on the joy and beauty of this most essential thing we do.
As Craig and I taste through the barrel groups we will be taking a lot of notes, talking a lot about our individual preferences and making a lot of mock blends. One of things that makes blending this way so interesting is that neither one of us tastes the same thing as the other. What may seem thin and lacking in varietal character to Craig may be overly wooded and too viscous for me. So, in the journey to craft a wine of beauty and tension and complexity, Craig and I must “battle” our own individual (and sometimes – idiosyncratic) biases to get to a point of agreement, and – more importantly – a point that most honestly serves the true nature of this particular wine.
When Lineage 2013 is released my profoundest hope is that the wine is not only spectacularly delicious but that it serves as a symbol for the way I want to make wine and live life. Hopefully, it prods and maybe even provokes a little. This wine should transform, if only to a tiny degree. And if we succeed, we will all see wine and winemaking a little bit differently, and perhaps feel it a little more deeply.
It has been an eventful last 7 days. The grapes and wines demand a lot of attention and when things are moving at a quick pace, it is easy to forget how much gets accomplished and how much sleep you haven’t had.
For your enjoyment, a quick recap:
- Harvest ended on October 25th
- Steven fell asleep on his office floor
- Craig Ploof, my assistant winemaker, pressed off his first wine…2013 Petite Sirah
- Steven fell asleep in his truck under an electrical tower
- Several lots of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Home Ranch and Clone 30 – Ghielmetti Vineyard were pressed off and show, even at this early stage, amazing quality
- We poured several Pinot Noirs at Sunday’s Pinot on the River event on Healdsburg Square and learned that a distributor from Germany may be interested in bringing our wines into his country.
- Steven tastes a finished Pinot Noir at the event and does not understand what he is tasting. (Soundcloud describing his temporary lostness here).
Just another ordinary week in the winelife.