Yesterday, Oren and I spent a few hours at Crushpad helping to sort a couple tons of Cabernet grapes belonging to Tim and Tom. (I’ve promised not to give away the name of their wine, which is top secret until the launch party.) We knew as soon as we saw Tim, in full Red Sox getup, that the pair would be good company. In fact, we did have a wonderful time, and now, as I gaze fondly at the grape schmutz stuck under my fingernails, I begin to reminisce…
The sorting process goes something like this:
1. The bin full of grapes is forklifted over to a sort of elevator, where it is raised and tilted to the point where the (endearingly named) cellar rats can rake the fruit into the destemmer:
2. The grapes travel up a conveyer belt and through the destemmer, which eliminates the largest stems and MOG (matter other than grapes) and gently separates the berries.
3. The fruit, looking like glistening juicy blueberries, is conveyed to the table around which Tim, Tom, Oren and I are standing. We taste several.
4. With the push of a button, the table begins to shake and the grapes start flying by as we frantically grasp at the little green “jacks” and toss them into the trash. These small stem clusters look just like green versions of the jacks that kids sometimes (used to) play with. Not all wineries bother to sort so carefully, but the jacks can impart an unpleasantly bitter flavor if they get into the wine, so sort we did. Here we are taking a photo break–and letting loads of jacks pass by:
Ironically, picking out jacks is more like playing a video game than some old-fashioned bouncy ball game. Imagine Lucy and Ethel at the chocolate factory, only instead of chocolate, there are millions of little ripe Cabernet grapes, and instead of Lucy and Ethel, there are yours truly et al., sticky up to our elbows in grape juice (and somehow on my neck, too), arms and brains wobbling vigorously with the vibrating table, and every now and then sneaking a nibble or two or three.
5. At the end of the table, the grapes cascade like a waterfall of blue pearls into another bin, where this lovely gentleman (no se su nombre, lo siento) does a final picking-over for MOG:
At this point, the grapes are ready for crushing and fermenting and our hands are ready for a good washing.
It was a fantastic afternoon, but I am looking forward to the satisfaction of sorting my own grapes next time. No news on the harvest yet, but I’ll keep you posted. By the way, if you’re feeling terribly jealous you can watch the action in real time via the Crushpad Cam. You won’t be able to smell the amazing musty grapeyness of it all, but you can wear your pjs.
At some point I would love to do a tasting of fresh grapes and their wines. Wouldn’t that be fun?