The Fruits of My Labor

“Wine is a union between man and nature, of man within nature.” José Luís Durand

Bottling day was upon me. I’d made my final blends a few weeks earlier and the wine tasted great. I was ecstatic. I sent samples to the lab and the results indicated all were within perfect, healthy ranges. A week later I clarified the three barrels of blended wine with egg white. Two days before bottling I added sulfites according to a formula that is determined by the pH of the finished wine. I borrowed two siphons and a corker, set up a barrel washing area out back and lined up my Dream Team.

my bottling day buddies

Yup, you guessed it, my Dream Team first arrivals

Around 11 am or so the first of my bottling team showed. Big Dave and Don-the-engineer. Shortly on their heels came Tom and Zöe. Introductions were made, I cranked the music, ushered the dogs out, opened the curtains and …. Everyone waited expectantly for me to tell them what to do. HA! I had no idea. I’d never done this before! We awkwardly and humorously fumbled around for a bit trying to figure out how to best set up stations and get the ball rolling. It was a little bit of a Keystone Cops kind of scene! Don-the-engineer got the siphon working. Tom took up the other end to begin filling bottles. The flow was not as easy to manage as one would hope so I put a bowl under the bottles to catch overflow. David set up a station to top off the bottles so that they would be more or less equal. Zöe and I took turns corking, keeping Tom with empty bottles to fill, storing the filled bottles cork side down and labeling the cases.

My FIRST bottle of wine!!!

My FIRST bottle of wine!!!

It didn’t take long before we were operating like a well-oiled machine …. But it was a festive occasion and I wanted to share my new wine. I was anxious for everyone to try it! This was a super important occasion for me. A real milestone, and I wanted my friends to have the first taste of my beautiful, proud creation. With my wine thief I pulled a sample of “Lady in Red” from the barrel. This is my structured blend that has a formula based on my earlier blending taste tests. 60% Mourvédre, 35% Grenache, 5% Syrah. I took the first sip and … it didn’t taste right. I was crestfallen!!!! All the stirring and clarifying and sulfiting activity had stressed the wine and it was not at its best. I passed it around for everyone to try but could sense the disappointment. We were all hoping for an elixir that would express something about the love, hard labor and tender efforts I had poured into my wine and instead were treated to a flat, distressed vino lacking aromas. I felt like crying!

Tom filling bottles, Zöe on the corker

Tom filling bottles, Zöe on the corker

We drank it anyway, I might add, and in spite of the anti-climax and apologies the wine did contribute to the joviality of the day.

Keep the vino coming, David!

Keep the vino coming, David!

I recently attended a wine maker’s conference at the Oenology and Gastronomy department of UABC, an event hosted by the Festival de las Conchas. José Luís Durand, wine maker of Sinergi and a consultant to many, of Chilean origins, spoke on aromas.  José Luís is not only one of the most talented wine makers in Mexico but he is a gifted orator and I was completely transported. Among other things I learned that aromas have a molecular existence. They actually consist of physical chains, some more delicate than others. When wine is stirred, shook up or otherwise disturbed, those chains will break. They’ll find their way back to one another eventually, but it takes some time. And since most of what we “taste” are actually the aromas, the less we smell, the more insipid our experience becomes.

José Luís Durand with participants of the conference

José Luís Durand with participants of the conference

Don left, Pat the chocolate lady came, then later, Bernandino the local cooper popped in to lend a hand and poco a poco we made it through two of the three barrels. By the end of the day I was bone-weary but we got a LOT accomplished and I could never have done it without FRIENDS! A week and a half later we scheduled the last barrel. Tom the intrepid, Susan, Dennis, Donna and Claire lent their muscle and good cheer to the day. We drank and laughed, the wine that had rested for awhile tasted better and the differences between the two blends were distinctive. Yay!!!! The next bottling adventure won’t be until sometime in September or October. Phew! A thousand thanks to my “Dream Team” bottling buddies for being there when I really needed you!

Don with his sample bottle of "Lady in Red"

Don with his sample bottle of “Lady in Red”


Zöe was very popular with my babies!

Zöe was very popular with my babies!

Second shift: barrel washing with Pat

Second shift: barrel washing with Pat


Pat and Bernandino

Pat and Bernandino, working while sipping

Towards the end of the day ... tired but happy!

Towards the end of the day … tired but happy.

2nd bottling day and Tom is back!

2nd bottling day and Tom is back!


Susan compares "Lady in Red" to "50 Shades of Red"

Susan compares “Lady in Red” to “50 Shades of Red”


Tom, Claire, and Donna on day 2

Tom, Claire, and Donna on day 2. Yay!


Dennis has honorary "wine maker hands"

Dennis has honorary “wine maker hands”

Oh, and guess what Dear Readers and Devoted Fans of Bacchus?

I’ve got wine for sale!!!!!!

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2 Responses to “The Fruits of My Labor”

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  1. Nani says:

    wow !! love this story and process…and sad as that is/was about the wine not tasting good when you drew it w your wine thief, I love that you shared that too..years, and years ago, now, I helped bottle in the south of France at my stepmother’s family’s home and ‘winery’…a not so fancy spot, but with all the heart you describe, in the back of the house not unlike what your place looks like. I don’t remember the egg clarifying though…didn’t know that was still common? Keep on going Sitari!! Look forward to being there in the sunshine with you soon, and having a sip of lady in red!

    • valleygirl says:

      I love hearing your stories, too, Nani. Really dig your south of France remembrance! Wine, like food, is convivial, isn’t it? It”s all in the sharing! The egg white fining is very traditional but not at all necessary.Just one of many tools to be employed according to the winemaker’s taste!

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