Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mother Nature punishes hang time

Mother Nature stepped in yesterday and said, "Enough with the hang time!"

"I've had it with these over-extracted fruit bomb wines that don't represent the good earth I've given you people," Nature said. "Look what I've given you: a fruit that turns itself into wine. All I ask is that you pick the grapes at their proper time. And what do you do? You walk around these vineyards with these shiny sticks of metal, measuring sugar. Birds know when the grapes are ripe. Why don't you just watch them?"

Displeased, Mother Nature sent 4 inches of rain to Northern California on Tuesday, rewarding grape growers who had picked already, and punishing those who had hoped for another two weeks of ripening so they could make bigger bodied, more concentrated wines.

Those growers will now have to contend with botrytis, watery grapes, muddy conditions that will make harvesting difficult and more expensive, and the potential for even more rain and havoc. Some might even lose the crops they had been waiting for.

"Put that in your brix refractometer," Nature said. "It's October 14, people. It's time to be indoors in the winery, letting my native yeasts enjoy the fruits of your summer's labor. It's time for the vines to shed their leaves and prepare for a restful winter's nap. Why are you keeping them awake for an extra month? How would you like it if I did that to you?"

She pointed out that many veteran winemakers and grapegrowers had finished picking well before Tuesday. "Theirs are the wines I like to drink myself," Nature said. "Those are wines with elegance, wines worthy of the name, not boozy fruit juices. Even Bacchus turns his nose up at some of these 16-percent Syrahs: I've seen him do it. And normally that guy will drink anything."

When asked her favorite wine, Mother Nature said that she doesn't play favorites with grapes, saying, "They are all my children, in a manner of speaking. What I like is when their shepherds let the grapes express themselves. I can't stand opening a bottle of Pinot Noir that tastes like Syrah, or a Chardonnay that tastes like melted butter. When I get one of those, sometimes it gets me so hot under the collar that I forget myself, and there's 110 degree temperatures in Napa for days."

I pointed out that she wasn't helping the situation with such tantrums, as summer heat makes the grapes produce more sugar that turns into alcohol. She gave me a glare that froze a bottle of Irish whiskey I had sitting nearby.

"Haven't you read Rudolf Steiner?" Nature said. "There's so much goofiness in there, but he gets the general idea -- a farm should be in balance, and if the vines have sunk their roots deep into the soil and are in healthy balance themselves, then the wines will be in balance. It's really not that hard. I took care of things for millenia before reverse osmosis and spinning cones, and it worked pretty well."

I asked if she was done with Northern California, and she said, "For now. I've got business elsewhere. There are some mobile home parks on the East Coast that aren't recycling their trash, but instead are just tossing it amongst my trees. I'm going to see about sending them a little swirly wind. But don't worry, I never stay out of touch for long. I love California; you can tell by the bounty it gives you every year. Just don't mess it up."