Friday, October 06, 2006

Les Miserables

Not all that long ago I was a vineyard consultant. I met many people who wanted to put in grapes and were excited by the prospect. I would meet them at their land and go over what was involved in terms of sweat and cash. I also tried to convey the level of stress that comes into play. It was usually a warm spring day or a clear autumnal afternoon. I think I was always able to get them to appreciate the amount of work that was necessary and the hefty expenses vineyards require, but I rarely conveyed the heart-break that is all too possible by investing yourself in grapes...

Today, Friday, October 6, 2006, it is raining like mad. I don't know the actual amount of rain yet, but judging by the flooding in the roads, we have received over three inches now. Daniel's crew was supposed to be picking some viognier for me today and tomorrow. The rain made it impossible to pick today; I'm afraid tomorrow is in jeopardy as well. They will be able to pick on Sunday, hopefully, but next week they are booked everyday to pick for other vineyards. We'll see what happens. This is grape growing in Virginia. Everything can be going right just to have your whole crop in peril the day it is to be picked. In this case, the fruit should be fine. There is little doubt, though, that it won't be as good as it could have been yesterday. We growers in Virginia are more at the whim of nature than most viticultural areas. Europe gets rains but not the regular hurricanes that rumble through here. Australia and California have drought, but that's an asset in winegrowing. Our drought is followed be deluges they rarely have. We get hail here like Chile and Argentina, but we also get spring frosts.

We had a weekend of heavy rain last year during harvest, too. We frequently get rain like this during harvest. Regardless, it always is stressful. Heavy rain, disease, frost... None are romantic, but they are part of the romantic idea of vineyard ownership.

We call this time of year "crush" as it is when we crush the grapes into wine. It also makes sense because who can recall a crush without heart-break.


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