Diana & Sitara’s Italian Movie, with Special Guest: Chente!
When folks follow my winemaking photo albums on Facebook they inevitably comment that it looks like “so much fun.” Truly there are many moments of levity. For some reason, winemaking lends itself to double entendres and libidinous allusions. Jokes abound when we’re in the groove, accompanied by weary chuckles and belly laughs. It’s tremendously satisfying to work alongside friends who understand what needs to be done and never waver when it comes to pitching in. Ninety-five percent of winemaking is simply hard, physical labor. The average crate of grapes weighs 15-20 kilos (33-44 pounds). A ton of grapes is around 48-50 crates, más o menos. Multiply that by six tons. That’s a lot of crates of grapes my friends. After the grapes are pressed off the skins the wine itself has to be moved around. I’ve lost count of how many 5 gallon glass carboys and cases of finished wine and barrels and tanks we’ve moved in the last 42 days. It’s a blur! Long days (and sometimes nights), sore muscles, stained hands and clothes, sticky skin, achy feet and good old fatigue rule the day during harvest.
Last year I didn’t have much time to prepare food so mostly lived on dollar tacos and hotdogs during harvest. This year my good friends, Diana Covarelli and Chente joined me in my winemaking efforts lightening the load though I more than doubled production this year.
Diana and I met years ago in my old stomping ground, Costa Rica, where she still lives. Diana is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy and has been cheffing for many years. Not only did she lend her backbone to winemaking this year, she happily took over my kitchen and prepared phenomenal meals all throughout harvest. We ate like royalty! Diana is of Italian heritage and shared many memories of her grandparents making wine when she was a child. Revisiting the winemaking process was of great interest to her and I couldn’t be more grateful for her willingness to take a month out of her life to come and help me.
Chente is an East Londoner who lived many years in the States and now resides in Porvenir, right here in the Guadalupe Valley. He’s an artist, and VGBW’s graphics and marketing genius. Diana and I are strong women. We moved our share of crates, lugged the crusher/destemmer around and rocked the basket press, but if we’d had to do it all ourselves it would have killed us! Chente lent his muscle and good humor to the process, often arranging his work schedule around harvest so he could be there for us. Yay friends!!!!!
Now I must confess to you, I had grandiose ideas that I would be able to invite, entertain and educate many more friends, acquaintances and supporters during the grueling month of harvest. When my first harvest quickly became a bungling mess, with miscommunications, rental equipment snafus and other shady dealings, I realized that a gaggle of well-meaning volunteers hanging around looking to me for leadership was just going to put my stress level over the top. My apologies to anyone who wanted to participate, observe and learn. It was just too much for me. Getting those first few harvests off the ground taxed me to the max! Subsequent harvests came in like clockwork and by that time my A-team and I were working together like a well-oiled machine. Rather than diluting the focus and inviting more people, I was mentally right where I needed to be: steeped in the multitudinous details of artisanal winemaking. I did have a few obstacles to overcome this year but am happy to say that the wines are absolutely GORGEOUS, with exceptional aromas and drop dead color saturation! The process still astonishes me. Sampling the wines just yesterday I was floored by the mouth feel that is already developing.
This year I am vinifying Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah, Tempranillo and with co-collaborator, Robin Mackenzie, Cabernet Sauvignon. All of the wines have been pressed off their skins and are in secondary fermentation. Slowly but surely we are bottling last year’s wines in order to make room in the barrels for this year’s vino … New releases are on the way!
Diana is back in Costa Rica. After she left and all the heavy labor of winemaking mania came to a sudden standstill, I went into shell shock for a few days. Now I’m recovering and wrapping my head around the next phase of my burgeoning business. There’s much to do and I have plenty to keep me busy. The stains on my hands are fading fast and I’m re-emerging into the world of the living. I’m in a better frame of mind for entertaining, so feel free to stop by my front porch wine bar, El Corcho Rosa for a glass of wine sometime!
A big hug to my dear friend, Jim Nelson for being there when I needed him most, special heartfelt thanks to Diana Covarelli and Chente, and a big Shout-Out to Renato Sais of Danza de Sol Winery, Kris, Ray & Patty Magnussen of Lechuza Vineyard, Alex Macias of 101 Vino & Bistro, Tony Bravo of JC Bravo winery, Tom Kolbo, Robin Mackenzie, Susan Mahalick, Ron McCabe, and all of VGBW’s friends and supporters.
More to come ….