My first experiences with the marathon that is a winery-based harvest came at Blomidon Estate in Nova Scotia, then later back in Ontario at Creekside. I was completely unprepared for the long haul that loomed ahead.
Prior to Blomidon I was only familiar with the limited perspective of the grape grower. When the crop was off, your job was done! I was ignorant to the efforts that went into processing and fermenting our freshly picked fruit. My early days in Nova Scotia taught me that it was far more difficult being responsible for the combined task of growing the grapes and making the wine. Despite the initial ass-kicking, I somehow rationalized starting my own winery just a few years later.
I took much of what I learned at Blomidon and applied it at Five Rows. As a smaller producer than most, I concede we have it easy compared to the big guys, and that is partly by design. Our collection of varietals lends itself to a nice even picking schedule, with a bit of a break mid-harvest. While everyone else is taking in Chardonnay and Merlot, we usually have the time to finish up pressing Pinot Noir and begin preparation for Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Each vintage is it’s own beast, a grueling battle with much reward at the end. Days seem to go on forever early in September then rapidly get shorter as the season draws to a close. The evening feast is the shining beacon at the end of each day and beer becomes your religion.
Then rather abruptly, like a wall of lake effect snow, it’s all over and you are left wondering what to do with yourself. You are conditioned to getting up and hitting the ground running, now there is actually time for reflection and leisure. The daily caffeine and adrenalin rush is no longer required, but can be hard to ween yourself from.
Mostly you try to get back to a normal life. Your significant other barely remembers who you are and rightfully expects you to make up for three months of being absent and tired. So now is the time to give back.
This year I spent my first day of “freedom” raking leaves in the snow, walking the dogs and picking up groceries…and enjoying every minute of it!