Thursday, October 3, 2013

The great grape harvest (part two)

Well Petit Clos’s first harvest of the Sauvignon Blanc grapes is under our belt…so to speak. The grape harvesting machine tractor arrived this morning at 7:45a.m. Last year, I had inspected the vines after the harvest and noticed that there were small bunches of grapes gathered at the wooden posts. The harvesting machine operated in a manner such that the “vibrating arm” must have bounced at each post. Well this year they got that glitch sorted out. After this huge tractor that straddles the vines was completed harvesting the vines, there were no grapes left hanging, left for me to sample.

Each of the last three years has been a mix of weather conditions. Two years ago there was a drought; last year there was a late frost; and this year we had horizontal blowing hail. This happened two days ago, nice cloudy day, nothing special then this black locust looking cloud approaching from the east. First the wind hit, then the rain added it’s two cents worth, then the wind raised the ante…well the rain thought; “fuck this…I’m going ballistic”.

I had run upstairs in the house to check on all the windows, thankfully they were all closed. I looked out one of the windows facing our driveway and saw it hit. First the rain was falling at a 15 degree angle, then the wind up the velocity, and then the horizontally bowing rain turned into ¼”inch hail.

Great Mother Nature’s having a pissing contest. (No…I don’t know with who…I just liked the imagery)

Well after getting the chainsaw out, and then cutting the two trees; that were blown over, and moving them out of the driveway. I proceeded to walk a kilometer (5/8’s of a mile) with the chainsaw and helped my neighbor cut up a thirty inch diameter tree that had blocked our main road. Then after lifting and clearing the main route I returned to the house and dropped off the chainsaw. I then took off my soaked sneakers and put on a dry pair of boots and walked to the vines.

I was thinking that if thirty inch trees were falling like dominoes; then my vines would be flattened. I arrived and started walking up one of the rows, no bad…if anything the wind seemed to have cleared the vines of any superfluous leaves. I was pleasantly surprised. And with closer inspection I saw that there were a lot more grapes than I originally presumed. There were about 15% of the grapes that were raisin-ey looking, another 15% that were tiny, and the rest looked vigorous. 

Overall the jury is still out. It will be months from now when we learn how many kilograms the vines yielded. We paid the harvester and the tractor with a grape bin trailer, 310 euro’s, and they drove the 12 kilometers to the winery. Last year was a smaller crop, so it will be interesting to see if I make more than $1.25 an hour.

Just returned from Bertico, winery and got my delivery ticket, it was about 20% more than last year. So I ‘m happy.

C est’ la Vie….It is the life.

This years Sauvignon Blanc grape harvest (part one)

You place me in any French Home Depot type store, and I can talk for hours describing what I need, what I’m doing, and how much I need. (It’s called Brico Depot over here…I have no f-ing idea what it means…either.)  However…if you get three guys in my vineyard pontificating in French about the various methodologies and requirements about the different cause and effects of the last three weeks of weather…yeah just like that. They could be describing Pythagoreans Theorem, Pythagoreans wife’s sexual proclivities, or Pythagoreans wife was having sex with Pericles.

My point you ask:

            What with the bizarre weather we’ve had the last few weeks; it was fast approaching time to harvest the vines. My vintner savior Sylvan dropped by to see how the grapes were doing. We spoke for a while and I informed him that I had stopped by the winery that was buying my grapes. I had spoken to so and so about having his tractor harvest my grapes. Sylvan looked at me and said. “He is the representative for the winery, he does not harvest, Henri.”

            “Well, I’m… you know what… out of luck,” I think to myself. Sylvan takes his cell phone out of his pocket and calls a few numbers. “They are being busy with the harvest; I will call a few more people from home and let you know.” I genuflected and he left.

            Not three hours later he drops by the house with a piece of paper and a phone number on it. “Be calling him tomorrow morning. “I again thank him profusely and he shrugs like it’s nothing, and leaves.

            Next day I call the phone number, after four hours of calling this number, it never rings through. I thought it was not turned on, but it didn’t even go to the mail box. Sylvan stops by later in the day. “Everything is good Henri?” I describe to him the amount of times I called the cell phone and shrug. “Let me make some calls later.” I’m feeling like some village somewhere really needs me back, as the stand in village idiot surpassed their requirements and they want the old village idiot back.

            Again next day, I’m just taking a break from cutting the fallen trees from a bizarre thunder/lightning/horizontal rain/hail cluster f**k, and Sylvan drives up.  “Not to be worrying Henri. Everything is set up for Monday at eight…eight thirty.” I can’t tell you how helpful it was, to coordinate the harvest machine and the tractor with the grape trailer (water tight) and he called the winery and scheduled that as well. If I had tried this on the morning of the harvest the harvesting machine would have been waiting for three hours for the tractor grape trailer, then it would have gone to the winery the one day it was closed.

As I’ve always said…One hand washes the others back….It really pisses Sylvan when I show up at bath time, his wife is getting a little leery. All kidding aside Cindy and I will be helping Sylvan hand pick his two different types of grapes. So that will be one full day each of backbreaking work, on following weekends. I still think I got the better end of the deal…because during the full day of harvesting…see they have this two hour lunch as a thanks to all the friends and family who pitch in. No great thing really…just the usual suspects…baguette, cheese, dried sausage, white wine, red wine, cold cuts, nap, more cheese, baguette, red wine, a little more red wine. 

This year I will bring my pocket knife, everyone brings one….except for me last year. One of the guys asked his child if I could borrow their French equivalent of a Playskool knife, and if the child wouldn’t mind showing me how to correctly use it.

            So…to end this tale. I’m standing out by the vines at 7:30 on the morning of the harvest. I see down the road a harvester approaching. They are the oddest looking vehicles, they straddle the row of vines and harvest by means of vibrating bowed fiberglass arms that drop the grapes to a conveyor belt. They are then transported into these large stainless steel bins on either side of the harvester. The leaves and fingers are separated and….kidding, come on…they are ejected through a side port.

            The guy driving the harvester lines it up on a row and waits for his boss to arrive, two minutes later. Then Sylvan arrives and shakes everyone’s hand. I still can’t believe how fortunate we are. To have a guardian vigneron (winemaker) watching over us.