“Like I said, people make some pretty good wine in this area.”
“That's why I'm here.” “Really? Because the world, or anybody who's at all conscious about what we're trying to do here...tends to think of us as a bunch of hicks taking on the French! - Bottle Shock (2008)
Last year I got to help my Dad and our friends Mike and Pam pick, crush, and ferment a massive amount of Zinfandel and Napa Gamay grapes. I was loving it! O.k. so it isn’t foraging per say, but harvesting and pressing your own wine in Sonoma County California is still a ton of fun and a story I just had to share with you.
My Dad had been searching for a while when he found the offer. The landowners had a whole vineyard ripe and prime for picking, but they had no intention of using the fruit themselves. We contacted them and were in the truck in an hour. Armed with bins and sickles we harvested from just morning until evening.
The vines were laden with sweet burgundy fruit hanging in enormous clusters. The vibrant green and gold leaves shimmered in the sun. I couldn’t help but cut a cluster now and then and take a huge bite of the sweet grapes.
By the end of the day, we had filled the truck beds, our backs were sore, our hands were sticky, and we were all grinning from ear to ear. It had been a heck of as good harvest!
Next, we crushed and fermented the fruit, racked the sweet grog into refurbished oak barrels and let the wine age. After a year the wine finally made it through malolactic fermentation and we were ready to bottle. Ron and I headed out to pitch in on the big day. We got a siphon going and filled bottle after bottle, corking them and setting them aside in cases. Again, we worked from morning to evening.
As we raised our glasses and toasted with the sweet nectar of the vine we had a unique sense of accomplishment. We now had first-hand experience with a centuries old tradition. We had felt the grape’s sugars stick to our fingers, the warmth of the fermenting wine up to our elbows as we pushed down the skins in the primary fermenting vessels, and the chill of wine spraying into the air as we attempted to siphon the barrels into bottles. Now we enjoyed the complexities of a beautifully crafted Sonoma County Zinfandel!
If you appreciate wine, I highly encourage you to pick, press, ferment and enjoy your own. Keep the old ways alive!