The alarm sounded at 4:45 am. The house was quiet, the dog and the cats were still sleeping. My son was swaddled snugly in his crib and my wife was sleeping too. In her mind she must have thought that I was crazy.
It was my day off. On this Thursday in September, I decided to take part in the 2010 Harvest on Long Island. I was not sure what was going to be in store for me this day, but I know that I needed some coffee. Lots of coffee too keep me going all day.
The drive along Sound Avenue is one I make often, either to visit the summer home in Baiting Hollow or to visit wine country, it is one I could make with my eyes closed. This time I made the trek from Rocky Point to Martha Clara Vineyards at 5:20am. I have never been out there at that time of day. It was the most inspiring drive I have taken in a while. To see the sunrise, the smell of the dew lifting off the fields, the smell of farmland and green crops is one that will stick with me for a while.
I arrived at Martha Clara at about 6 AM, it took me a while to find Robbin Epperson- McCarthy, assistant winemaker, out in the fields, but the sound of the machine harvester was not enough to find her. A quick text and I found her, Matt Gabriel, Martha Clara’s Video, Graphics and Web designer, Jim Thompson, Vineyard Manager along with a few other crew members picking some Chardonnay via the machine harvester. They documented this day, their 9th day of Harvest on their Harvest Wine Blog. I did not make the cut, but this video will give you a more professional view of harvest at Martha Clara Vineyards.
I have never been around a machine harvester, I have only harvested by hand. So this was another learning experience for me. Many vineyards use a machine harvester, it saves time and money. I just don’t know if I am a fan of it. There is nothing like sound of snipping of a bunch of grapes. It’s quiet boring to watch the harvester go, but when you ride on top of one, that is where the fun begins.
After the Chardonnay was harvested, which took about 3 hours, Martha Clara then went to harvest some Sauvignon Blanc that was going to be used for some of their blends. Again, this was all machine harvested.
At that point, Robin and I decided to head over to the winery, Premium Wine Group and await the first batch of Sauvignon blanc that was on its way via Sound Avenue in a 4 ton gondola.
The free run juice from the Sauvignon blanc was definitely tasty, loads of pineapple and guava with a hint of melon.
John Leo, production wine maker at Premium Wine Group and winemaker at Clovis Point was not going to let me stand around and watch. He made sure I did not have any time to put my hands in my pockets. He had me making dry ice, he had me filling the tanks with dry ice to keep things stable. The dry ice cools down the temperature of the grapes during the cold soak process. It is also used on freshly picked grapes to keep them cool and stop them from fermenting with the wild yeast that is naturally found on their skins. By using dry ice, no water is added to the grapes.
After I checked on all the tanks and added dry ice to the crushing and pressing process, it was time to make sure that all the grapes were out of the gondola. Once it was emptied, it seemed as if another one was waiting to be unloaded.
Time was becoming an issue for me. Yes, it was my day of, but my wife and son were waiting for me at home. I had wanted to help out longer, but I had other pressing priorities. Winemaking is not my job; Talking about wine and bringing you the stories about winemaking and wine in general is.
But before I left, Robin and I tasted through some of the fruit that was fermenting and in the process of being made into wine. It may have been too soon to get flavors out, but in this ripe season, and at that early stage of the harvest, you could taste and see how good the 2010 vintage from Long Island will be.
Special thanks to Robin, Jim, Matt and John for putting up with me all day and making sure there was something there for me to do. I felt like one of the team.
Now enjoy this video I recorded as I was riding on top of the harvester.