Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I didn't make it. With ~500 out of ~9,000 patient tonnes of fruit still hanging I split New Zealand, leaving the Cabernet Sauvignon--the perennial rear guard of vinifera harvests--to be someone else's privilege, someone else's problem. My reasons for leaving were legitimate enough, but in this life you either finish what you start or you don't. At a remote gate in the Auckland airport, I catalogued my sunburns and scabs and questioned if I still "worked the vintage". I personally managed the crushing of at least 2,500 tonnes, established dominance over a curmudgeonly 6" diameter must line, plunged fourteen tanks every morning with a pipe taller than any building in my neighborhood, and now appreciate the lye-on-the-hand scene in Fight Club better than you hopefully ever will. I worked 50, 60, 70-hour weeks.

Not being present at the end of vintage can't discount the entire experience, but there is a degree of ceremony to the whole thing--some splash an ounce of last year's wine onto the first grapes to be crushed, others (men) don't shave until the last pressed skin is out of the winery, most mark vintage's conclusion with some riff on overindulgence. Missing the end means something is missing--nothing crucial, but nothing insignificant. Like I piously bared my soul for fifty minutes of Mass before skipping out on the Benediction.

I know more about making wine as a result of working this vintage, which is all that matters. I know what Rohavin is. I know that a T-valve is very useful in a winery. I know grape presses larger than many New York apartments exist. I can only anticipate the next harvest and then the one after that, ever in search of experience.

Recent notables:
  • Sixpoint "Bengali Tiger" IPA: Seen-it-before bronze color. Aromas skew towards grain instead of fruit and obvious piney hop stuff, though the latter are there as well. Crisp and not too malt-sticky, opens with a serious snap of bitterness, with the hops gradually revealing themselves as the long finish takes shape. Solid example of style.
  • Ravenswood "Zen of Zin" Zinfandel 2007: Not a particularly chunky Zinfandel, sharper acidity than is typical. Distinguished blackberry, raspberry are nice but taste stifled. There might also be some spiciness in there trying to escape. Not much of that soul-warming Zin heat at the end. "No Wimpy Wines"? Careful, RWood. Could probably have benefited from decanting.

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