It’s the time of year here when I wake up in the morning and the air smells like sweet, baked grapes. It’s also the time of year when I get a lot more “me time.” Yes, harvest is upon us, albeit earlier than usual, and this is my first year as an official “harvest widow.”
Dave’s long hours at the winery during harvest are standard for any winemaker, but in the past, we worked together (I, knee-deep in peak event season and he, in grapes) so not much changed for us; we just spent more of our time together at the winery than at home.
This year though, it’s a different story. He has been working a typical harvest schedule, but we aren’t under the same professional roof anymore. The house is quieter and it’s my turn to carry more of the load, a pendulum that swings based on our workloads.
Harvest Widow (n): Someone who has temporarily lost their significant other to harvest.
While most in the winemaking profession are thinking about things like grape quality, pick dates and brix, the harvest widows are thinking more like, “will he be home for dinner at a reasonable hour?” or, “should I stock up on snacks that he can eat on the fly?” and, “do I need to pre-soak those clothes to get any grape stains out?”
This weekend, in an effort to combat the separation, I awoke before the sun (normal for him; not so normal for me) and accompanied Dave to the winery to check on some chardonnay juice and watch him do some punchdowns.
A punchdown, for those of you playing at home, is pretty much where Dave takes an industrial-sized potato masher and breaks up the ultra dense “cap” (all the grape skins, seeds and other whole bits) that has accumulated at the top of the fermentation bin/tank. The best analogy I ever heard was to think of the cap as a tea bag. The bag needs to steep in order to get the color/flavor desired, as does the cap.
While he did his work, I hung out at the winery, took a couple photos of the action. It wasn’t a terrible way to spend a Saturday. It gave us a chance to drink our coffee together on the ride over, something we hadn’t done in well over a month, and throw in the brunch that he promised when the punchdowns were complete (he knows food is my love language), it was almost a normal Saturday (for me, anyway).
The grapes at Dave’s winery are almost all in, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that harvest is over. There are still fermentations, more punchdowns, and even bottling to be done, so the long hours aren’t quite finished yet. But we’re lucky that his winery is a “family-friendly” place, where I’m welcomed (often times, with a glass of vino) and can ease my way into this harvest widow thing.