The Joy of Harvest


I woke up late at night, not able to sleep, heart pounding in anticipation of timg_0323he upcoming grape harvest. It may seem strange to most of our readers that someone so far from the vineyards of Eastern Washington would have such things on their mind. But believe it or not, most of the delicious wine made in our lovely state is indeed made here on the Westside. It’s the perfect storm because our climate here on the coast is mostly moderate to cool during the year, making for ideal conditions in the wineries for making and aging wine. I feel sorry for the wineries in Yakima who need to run their air conditioners while the grapes ferment in the fall. Temperature control is always an issue and the energy bills must be enormous. We will be crushing our first grapes on September 14th, Merlot from famed Red Willow Vineyard, and our last grapes the end of October. The ritual of hitching up the truck and trailer, cleaning and loading the bins, and getting up in the wee hours of the morning to head out over White Pass is exhilarating. The ritual is happening all over the Northwest right under your nose. From Vancouver to Linden, small boutique winemakers are bustling around in their rigs, traversing the mountains to the sacred vineyards, whose alluvial soils brought about by volcanic events and spread out over the valleys of Eastern Washington by the Missoula floods long, long ago. One harvest fact that really got me was that 70% of all the grapes harvested in the state are crushed by one winery, the first in the state-Chateau Ste. Michelle. Now that is impressive. All the other grapes go to the other 900 wineries who create an economic impact of over 10 billion dollars and provide 30,000 jobs. The good news is Washington wineries provide us with 16 million cases of wine to drink; well, not just us, but people all over the world who are starting to recognize the quality and variety of Washington wine. People ask me all the time about the crush and especially whether we crush with our feet. They always bring up the infamous crush seen in the classic I Love Lucy episode . The inquirers are alway surprised when I say “we do crush some of the grapes with our feet”. It is still the most gentle form of crushing. Machine crushing is the norm in modern winemaking but there are some famous wineries who still make some of their wine using this method. The only difference is they usually wear hip waders! As for dirty feet and its effect on wine, if you have ever been to a crush, you know that plenty of MOG (materials other than grapes) find their way in to each batch. Not to worry, all the MOG is filtered out through the winemaking process. Plus, our foot crushers thoroughly wash their feet first! I’m finishing this article at home as the first fall rain is pattering down on the deck. It is a magical time for me. I’m so fortunate to be connected with the agriculture of our great state. It harkens me back to a time when all of us were in one way or another living by Mother Nature’s clock, where life was dictated by the ebb and flow of the seasons, planting and then harvesting. A necessity, not just an occasional garden. How life has changed. It’s encouraging to know, though, that someplace somewhere, someone is still doing it.

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