What I did on my summer vacation, part 2
The end of summer brings the wine harvest here in the Willamette Valley. This year, it was quite early (early September versus mid October-ish) and prolific. We were happy to be able to spend a few days helping with crush at Broadley Vineyards in Monroe. We became acquainted with the Broadleys when we fell in love with their Pinot Noir. Then we met Claudia and Craig Broadley, and the next generations of Broadleys who are all making great wine at a small family-owned winery — and we were hooked.
We showed up and were assigned to work the sorting table. This is the place where huge tubs of freshly-picked grapes are dumped onto a conveyor and sorted for quality. The conveyor leads into a de-stemming machine. That then separates the fruit from the stems. The guidelines, as they were explained to me, are:
— Don’t cut yourself.
— Don’t manhandle the fruit.
— Pull off anything you wouldn’t want to eat (leaves, “sunburned” raisn-y grapes, un-ripe grapes).
I found the sorting process to be meditative and quite enjoyed it. Sure, you get sticky and there are a lot of bugs (hornets love ripe Pinot grapes, as do earwigs and spiders). For me, it was an experience of being in the present moment, focusing on something important but not mentally or emotionally taxing. You have to pay attention to the grapes moving by and act quickly to pull things out. (Recall, please, the scene of Lucy and Ethel packaging chocolates.) But unlike most jobs I have had in my life, you aren’t dealing with anyone’s problems or any difficult decisions. Focus, be in the moment, move, sort. Repeat, tub after tub, ton after ton.
I felt a sense of harmony with the season, the harvest. I learned a little more about what is meant about the quality of fruit and I saw how it differed from vineyard to vineyard. (For Oregon Pinot geeks, we sorted fruit not only from the Broadleys’ own vineyard but also from Shea, Zenith, Palmer Creek and others.) The 2015 vintage is going to be a good one in the Willamette Valley, if the fruit I saw was any indication. Ripe, black, luscious. I love the seasons, I love doing things that connect me to them, and I love Oregon Pinot Noir.
In case you are wondering, Broadley Vineyards will be open again for tasting (and buying) November 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29, 2015. Don’t miss it; I think the next opening after that is in April 2016.