Friday, October 18, 2002

When last we met, on Monday, I revealed the sad fate of my just-pressed Zinfandel: It was leaking out of the barrel. This led to the purchase of another barrel and of a pump. Along the way this week, I also spent an hour in the hospital while the urologist performed an operation which my HMO calls "removal of sperm ducts." Vasectomy, indeed. Niko shall be the one and only! It hurt, dammit. More than they said it would. Three days later and it still hurts. OK, the pain is as promised--"moderate," not "extreme." But pain down there carries special weight, you'll certainly agree.

Meanwhile, there was craziness at work. Budgets, calls to "drive sales," research to do, plans to flesh out, writing to concoct, numbers to hatch, on and on. It almost felt like a real live full-time job, I swear.

But back to the winemaking. I picked up two 1998 barrels for 35 bucks a pop from Kristen, the charming and informative winemaker at Honig, and with my new pump moved the wine from the leaker into one of the Honigs. I wasn't very careful about pumping the dirty Zin and sent a lot of crud through the pump. The pump didn't mind, but the crud got all beat up and is now floating on the wine at the top of the barrel like pond scum. I've relied strictly on gravity in the past but with this much wine--by the end of this year's crush I'll have 260 gallons of wine in barrel, please don't tell the BATF--that was becoming impossible. I didn't realize how powerful a 1/2 horse pump could be. Next time I'll be more careful, for which the wine should be thankful. We'll let that Zin rest quietly for a few months now. I'm sure it will be fine.

I mentioned the end of crush: It comes tomorrow. I'm going up to Mendocino again to get old-vine Carignan. This poor grape gets little respect, mainly on account of the fact that growers have cropped it to high heaven and picked it too soon, and producers haven't argued with them when they did so. And why would they? The giant Central Valley wineries that bought most Carignan were feeding into jug wines, beefing up the color and flavor, and their first priority was to keep costs low. Treated right, I believe Carignan can make an interesting little wine, with deep color and rustic Rhonish flavors. Like Petite Sirah, it possesses much more character when picked from old vines. My source is Don Lucchesi's 45-year-old vineyard south of Ukiah in the Talmage area. Don gets about 5 tons an acre off his vineyard, a small crop by Carignan standards. At this late date, it ought to be plenty ripe, as well. I'll let you know what I think after I get back tomorrow.

One last thing: The Series, of course, starts tomorrow. Timing couldn't be more perfect. The last grapes are picked, then we settle in to watch the San Francisco Giants take their first World Series. What a wonderful fall this is turning out to be.

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