I've always enjoyed fall. The changing of the leaves, the cooling of the air welcoming old thick sweaters and comfy jeans, reflections of the summer past, and the excitement of the first snowfall just around the corner. My midwestern roots ring true in my appreciation for four distinct seasons but I think my full yearning for autumn was solidified only through my participation in numerous wine harvests during the last few years.
I feel a bit nostalgic now as the last time I donned my Carrhartts and Blundstones and prepped a bucket of per-carb and citric to go clean some tanks was now one year ago; I've most recently traded in my paisano lifestyle of making wine for a dress-shirt-and-tie position of selling the stuff, but the winery is where my heart lies and I'd give anything to have perpetually wet feet and dried-out-purple-hands for three months.
Anyone in the wine industry will attest that harvest is the most stressful, yet most rewarding time of year. The months following revolve around selling hard and the summer preceding entails strict vineyard management and lots of nail biting. Harvest itself, as I've written before entails the blurring together of late nights and early mornings, fueled by plenty of beer, coffee, and worldly socialization. I'm surprised more hasn't been written on the global wine harvest culture in a scholastic setting. Perhaps I have a graduate thesis in the works. I still have yet to spend a full year seeing the pruning of vines in the winter all the way to barreling down at the end of the next harvest. Someday I say.
For now I'm stoked at the wine-buying position I have been blessed with in the Twin Cities. I've already learned so much and have so much more room to grow and excel. I'm nostalgic for the harvest, now one year out, I spent at Siduri wines in Santa Rosa, with Adam and Diana Lee making my time oh so worth while and Ryan Zepaltas making each and every minute of the day just a little bit more intense. What about my southern hemisphere harvest preceding on the south island of New Zealand pumping out some fresh wines for Woollaston Estates? How could I forget the people who so graciously welcomed the midwestern-boy with no experience to come make wine with them at Penner-Ash in 2008. Hopefully I'll be able to score a few bottles of that output and soon have some write-ups to show for it.
What I'd say right now to those of you who drink wine is: get on the interweb and find your local winery. Take a weekend in the next few months to go out and see what their harvest is all about. Even if you don't like their wines per-say, you'll have a much greater appreciation for what exactly goes into the wine-making process. You'll be more informed, aware, sensually stimulated, and perhaps even inspired. I recently did a tasting of some Minnesota wines and have to say that I was blown away by the potential of some local producers. The large production wines will enable you to expand your palate on a budget, but the small scale, local, producers are really the ones who make drinking wine exciting year in and year out.
On the eve of many northern hemisphere harvests I raise my glass in honor of the many sleepless nights ahead that will lubricate many unforgettable social get togethers and fill our glasses, wine columns, and blogs for the years to come.