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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pressing Business

When I left off at the last blog, I had dreams of looking through the crosshairs of my crossbow scope aimed at the well-fed turkeys leaving my fallen Nortons. My desire to put a turkey on my Thanksgiving table subsided however when I returned to the mini-winery and looked at the work that still needed to be done, and the lack of tools to do it.

We were still without power from Hurricane Irene's onslaught, but the Cabernet Franc had already spent a day sitting on the skins and was ready to be pressed. The bladder press worked its magic using just water pressure when we did the Seyval Blanc, but in the country this pressure can only come from one's own well operated by.....you guessed it.....an electric pump. Without disaster foresight and a good backup plan which no doubt would have had us well-equipped with a hand cranked basket press, we were at a loss as to what to do.

Stomping on the grapes is an obsolete idea, with its time long past, except for those of course that want to reenact the old world custom. The only thing we could come up with on short notice was to use a set of colanders and squeeze the grapes in between two of them, allowing them to release the juices but encapsulate the skins for disposal. Which left us with the next small hurdle.....who has 2 of these things lying around ? Even good devout Italians don't have two in the house.

So off we went to Smithfield in search of an open store that sold these things, and fortunately the local Dollar Store was open for business. Apparently Smithfield had gotten all its power back and was doing business as usual. Dollar Stores, Dollar Generals and the like seem to be prevalent in the south. Along with a gas station, the convenience dollar store is a necessity in any small town. Cheap stuff, a minimum of food items and a compact answer to a grocery store makes them perfectly suited for rural areas where needs are immediate, distances to metro areas are huge, and money is scarce. And they carried spaghetti strainers.

After driving the 15 miles that it took us to get back to the house, Diane and I proceeded to give the "new press" a try. With a small bucket we reached into the MacroBin and scooped some grapes, dropping them in one colander. Placing the 2nd colandar over the first, we started to squeeze the two plastic strainers together while holding them over a bucket, and with only hand strength and later finger pressure we started to obtain our future wine a little at a time. It took forever.

Unlike before, the wasps seemed to want to leave us alone during this painstaking process. I think they got tired watching us, or maybe they realized that the skins, later tossed into our compost heap on the other side of the farm were just plain easier to deal with.

A couple of hours later we were done, but now we had to consider clean-up. One cannot believe how grapey everything gets. Purple fluid everywhere, grape skins stuck to any surface available, and just an absolute stickiness on anything you've touched. With pressurized water this clean-up is a simple affair, but how about without water ? Fortunately we are adjacent to a creek, and after dragging buckets up an embankment we had enough to start throwing it at all of our tools and equipment, scrubbing between tosses to help rid of residue, built up grime, and overall yuck.

Was it really clean ? No. Obviously using creek water has its limits, and when we return to the farm and before we use the items again we must truly clean them with soap-equivalent solutions(metabisulfate most likely) .

Our work was completed for now. It was time to think about dinner and ready ourselves to head home once again. We had, in spite of the hurricane made significant progress in this, our first harvest. We hope we did the right things, under all the circumstances, to produce good wine during the coming months. Only time will tell. We looked forward to our return in a couple of weeks to begin the process again with the Viognier and the Nortons.

As we walked into the house, the power came back on.

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