In the morning the fog always settles around the vines, enveloping them in a dense gray boa, creating a surreal fantasy world. I don't see landscapes like this in the Midwest. Sure, we have sweeping fields and dramatic sunsets, but something about this undulating, verdant land draws me in.
I arrived in the Willamette Valley about two weeks ago. I had been very familiar with the wines of the region and had even visited Portland many years in the past, but it wasn't until I settled in to my house in the middle of the Stermer Vineyard that my Oregon wine experience began.
I adore the Midwest and my hometown of Chicago, perhaps sometimes to a fault. I even have the skyline tattooed on my arm. However, this break from the skyscrapers and rattle of the trains has done me good. There are stars here, a complete novelty for me, and I love the fact that the noise I notice at night are the deer eating fallen apples a little too close to my window.
The winery setup here is amazing and the organization is totally intuitive. I have spent minimal time running around looking for tools, something which normally occupies far too much of my time. I can't wait to actually get some fruit picked and in the winery and once again have that enchanting aroma of fermenting grapes work its way in to my everyday life. Once the fermentation process begins, that scent will signify so much about our work here at the winery, from the meticulous everyday activities to the final product months after harvest is finished.
I got into the wine industry through food, so there has always been a very strong connection between the two. I really have a hard time truly assessing the value of a wine without trying it with food. However, to be fair, over years of practice and many bottles I have learned to enjoy wine without food but, my preference is still a nice bottle, a good meal and people surrounding me.
After spending a couple years purchasing wine for one of the larger fine wine retailers in Chicago, I briefly tried working in wholesale and was ultimately unsatisfied. Confronted with this dilemma, I really only had one option left: I would have to try making the stuff.
I worked harvest in Central Otago, New Zealand, surrounded by Pinot Noir vines and up to my elbows in cow manure and I completely fell in love with the production side of the wine industry. I immediately decided that I had to try it again, like jumping back on the same roller coaster immediately after the safety bar has been lifted. For this harvest I am still a wine-making novice offering my humble insight in to the life of sterilizing tanks, berry sorting, and punchdowns.
In addition, I have the honor of preparing the harvest meals for this very talented group here at Lemelson and will happily share stories of the memorable meals and all the harvest madness.