the earth moved
by crushed & stirred
. . . . and then this harvest got very weird, before it even got off the ground. Perhaps we should have seen the mischief brewing – the strange conditions a long way out. The eerie spring warmth; the premature budbreak and ensuing growing season; the perverse drought; the suddenly strange cool spell that briefly arrested development of skyrocketing sugars paired with oddly high acid levels. Humid days. Fog so thick it was rain. Then gentle warming again, with the potential for rain. Strange vintage, this.
Then I slipped off a ladder, three rungs up. It was hot and humid in the cellar and I was concentrating hard as I casually pulled a gas line out of the top of a tank filling with finished chardonnay (delish, btw). Concentrating so hard I didn’t even notice whether my foot had made contact with the rung below me before allowing my body weight to follow it. I don’t know enough about physics, but I’m sure that 140 pounds of woman coming down on the slim ankle of said woman with the added velocity produced by a 3-foot drop – not recommended. Unless you’re a fan of pumpkin-sized feet and purple skin and crutches and feeling horrible about your uselessness and your inability to do EVERYTHING. UGGGGHHH.
Cuz then we had our first pick. Pinot Noir from Perli Vineyard in Mendocino County. As a first haul goes, it was a good one, minus my grouchy uselessness – clean and delicious and sitting in tank now, awaiting its hopefully long life as a kick ass wine.
Then we bottled. Enough about that; when it happens at the start of harvest, we’d all just as soon as forget it ever happened. We all went home, ready to move on to the fun part, minus one ankle.
And then at 3.20 am the earth shook. I hadn’t felt an earthquake in years, but as a native Californian, it was an instantly recognizable, cruel awakening – as from illness. There’s no mistaking it, that disorienting vulnerability. A reminder that the physical world that is our reference for everything is subject to change, to destruction, even to harming us. And to putting one of our two interns in the hospital with stitches and a concussion from a flying object.
Up in Santa Rosa, Donelan is north and west of the epicenter and nothing was lost. All day, with my leg guiltily raised on the couch, I monitored the photos streaming in from our industry colleagues of fire and brimstone in the Napa Valley next door – of barrel room calamities, shattered wine libraries, busted up streets, burning houses.
As a preamble to the following: I feel more invested in this harvest than ever before. Yes, my return to Donelan last year was a homecoming to wines and a team I feel motivated by. But this is more than a year hence. A year of caring for those barrels, tending to that lab, lovingly sweeping and lifting and cleaning and building and installing and topping and racking and sampling and tasting and thinking and talking and finishing – actually bottling wines I “made.” And so this year, more than ever, I want to help our stellar sites come through into some stellar wines and learn and experience all the stuff you learn and experience along the way. I want it to taste goooood and feel great.
So now we are a slightly limping, slightly rattled crew, with the whole show still ahead of us. And so goes the show; it goes on. There’s a world of fruit out there. At dawn (as in, tonight – people this is in REAL TIME) we pick the first load of Obsidian Vineyard Syrah, ankle or no ankle.