Friday, 5 September 2014

Detour to Oliver

In order to get to my home away from home in Oliver, I had another early start with the winemaker. The plan was to drop me at my lodging on his way to work. So there I was in the car with all my bags, ready to go back to sleep once I settled in, when he decided to surprise me by saying that he wanted me to come to work for three hours. He wanted me to do an induction and then he would drop me at the motel! 
I was wearing a pair of old pants with holes in them and did not have suitable footwear on for a winery. Not the best way to start out at a new workplace!

My frustration did not last long as we ascended the steep driveway towards the winery, winding our way through the vineyards. Road 13 Vineyards is absolutely beautiful! The cellar door and cellar is designed as a faux castle on the outside and looks out over the vista of vineyards on the valley floor. My panoramic picture below really does not do it full justice.

After meeting the other cellar workers, who all seemed friendly, we set off on a tour of the various cellar rooms, listening to the usual safety warnings and a few ins and outs of the winery operation. I was excited to see that most of the equipment looks to be in good condition, but the dowside is that there are no catwalks and the only way to reach the lids of any of the tanks is via ladders. And some of the tanks almost touch the roof...
Ladder + Wet Floor = Possibility of Disaster!! least in my books. So I will definitley be taking things slowly when it comes to working on ladders.

Just to drag things out further, the winemaker decided he would like to taste some of the grapes in the vineyards before he left to drop me off. I didn't mind, as it meant I had the opportunity to learn what he was looking for to determine when the grapes would be ready. 

When tasting grapes in the vineyard, he explained that you should bite into the grape whilst squeezing gently at the same time so that the pulp or flesh goes into your mouth but the skin remains behind. This allows you to get an idea of the flavours present in the clean juice. You don't chew or swallow the seeds at this stage, instead you spit them out and assess their colour. If the seeds are still green, it can indicate that the fruit is not quite ripe yet and, as it matures, the seeds turn brown and develop a 'nutty' flavour. Finally, you taste the skin separately to understand what impact the 'phenols' present in the skin will have on the juice flavours. This can assist in determining how hard to press the grapes.

This process is repeated for grapes from opposing sides of the vines due to differences in sun exposure which can result in varying ripeness levels. We tasted the Chardonnay from the 'Castle Vineyard' and it looks like it is ready to pick. In fact, all going to plan, we will start crushing Chardonnay on Monday. Nothing like getting straight into it!

 Chardonnay grapes ready for picking