We thought we’d purchased 1000 pounds of Tempranillo today. We drove half the state again (well, OK–a third of the state. California is large, after all) to Paso Robles to pick up the grapes, this time with my friend Catherine and her husband David, in tow. It was the typical quick trip and Paso was beautiful with cool breezes and warm sun. Joe Macchiarello’s place was, contrary to last time, full of trucks–people from all over had come to pick up their grapes and make wine. As the harvest kicks into full swing, Joe’s home becomes a much busier place. Dodges, Chevy’s, Ford’s and our Tundra lined the driveway and to get the grapes meant a choreographed dance of diesel and gas, metal and rubber. Trucks coming and going, the forklift backing and lifting boxes marked “Tempranillo,” “Sangiovese,” “Petit Verdot,” all orders placed online or by phone with Joe or his wonderful wife, Sandy.
We thought we got 1000 pounds of grapes loaded into the truck. We paid our money, we bought a 60 gallon refurbished barrel, Brian bought an extra rack to put the barrels on and Joe charged him $20.00. My friend Catherine, an English teacher–and a natural conversationalist like myself, started engaging Joe in conversation just as Brian wanted to leave. We had to yank her away to get on the road. The usual stop–El Pollo Loco–and then hit the 101. Crushing was an act of sheer will. Catherine handled the bulk of it, but all were tired. She climbed into the deep bin and filled buckets with grapes and juice, while Sofie and Laurie dug in and emptied buckets to the crusher-destemmer. Even Peanut pitched in helping to move de-graped stems off of the driveway and into neat piles. It was her first real wine-making day. More juice, more pips, more skins—1000 pounds? Are you sure? That’s what Joe said, anyway…
Catherine at the bottom of the grape bin, looking up for a photo (it’ll run later) scooping bucket-fulls of grapes and juice into the de-stemmer. The grape bin is full–completely full—with maybe 4 inches to the very top—of juice and skins. Once the yeast is added, this is going to overflow. Well–we’ve got an extra stainless steel container–and if it does overflow, we’ll empty 30 gallons out and ferment it in there for the rest of the week. Clean it up, sterilize it, put it away….
A sip of Brian’s 04 Syrah for good luck, a quick blessing of the must and off we go–Catherine and David their way, me-my way. Exhaustion, sore…shower. When the phone rings, it’s Brian. He’s just checked the receipt. “We agreed to buy 1000 pounds, right?” “Yep–that’s what we agreed on…at 80 cents a pound.” “Well, we got 1452 pounds at 65 cents a pound.” “That’d explain a lot…”
“Any thoughts about complaining? Giving any back?” “No. We’ve got a lot of wine…”
Indeed we do. A lot of wine….