Call me Chicken Little.
At the first sign of rotten berries and fruit flies in our Pinot Noir I run to my father and proclaim, “the sky is falling”. I rattle off all the jobs that need to be done IMMEDIATELY: gotta get the bins ready for harvest, gotta cut the rot out, gotta check the sugar and acid levels, gotta thin out green bunches, gotta take the nets down…
He takes in all the “gotta’s” and I manage to catch my breath while swatting away invisible fruit flies. My anxiety stems from sheer amount of time I’ve put into that damn vineyard, and coming to grips with the concept that no amount of time and care can trump mother nature. Water is always the great equalizer. These overly tight Pinot clusters just can’t resist taking in excess water. They are starting to rot from the inside out, as mid-cluster berries begin to split. This condition is worse than a simple bird peck or hail strike which often times dries up on the cluster exterior. The only cure for this malady is the strategic removal of rotten berries, not a fun prospect.
Howie takes it all in stride. The calm look on his face reminds me that we go through this same excruciating Pinot dance every year. He knows that we will cut the rot out and the resulting fruit will ripen-up enough to make good wine. If not, then at least we can rest assured that we gave it our best shot. Why can’t I be this wise and even-keeled? I guess that is where we differ.
He goes on to recall the words of a sage vineyard manager we both know who under similar circumstances proclaimed, “They are just grapes and we’re just making booze.” I shudder and remind him that this fellow no longer manages vineyards.