Winemaking is a lot of hard work, and starting a small winery involves many sacrifices, stresses, and sobering realities. I wrote this list of things that I love about winemaking so that I won’t lose sight of the things that make this all worthwhile:
The color of young red wine, the color of the skins after pressing, in the sunlight. The look of the freshly pressed juice in glass with sun shining through it. It’s like hot pink crossed with royal purple.
The smell of a healthy fermentation. That sweet, intoxicating, cloud of carbon dioxide and volatized esters that combine unmistakably and remind me of the seasons and change, of the richness of harvest, of the end of something and the beginning of something all at once.
The weight of a cluster of ripe grapes. The heft of it in your hand, full of potential energy lying just beneath the tight skin of each grape berry, giving the bunch a sense of explosive potency, like a grenade that can burst into life rather than death.
A vineyard at dawn. The supple undulations of the land mirrored in the curve of each row. The quiet wakefulness, as if each vine were in guided meditation and the wind was their breath. The symbiosis of natural processes and human endeavor, reminding me that they are actually integrated, synonymous.
That night-before-Christmas thrill underlying the stress and exhaustion of every day of harvest until the wines are barreled down, and lingering even after into the winter.
The freshness of new wine, straight from the press.
Wine barrels full of, and stained with, wine. A cellar full of barrels feels medieval, and evokes cloaks, and wintry castles, and feasts.
The word “bunghole.” The fact that part of my job is sniffing bungholes.
The pristine lines of a wine bottle pouring wine into a wine glass.
The tremendous satisfaction that transcends the flavor of even my best wine when I taste something that I helped bring into being. And the complementary humility in knowing that I didn’t make it good, I just helped to keep it good. That at my best, I’m just trying to bottle sunshine, moonlight, and, if I’m lucky, a little lightning.