Last week, I gained a new appreciation for wine. Oregon's Willamette Valley is up there with Napa when it come to excellent wines. And my job, surprisingly enough, is teaching me to be a wine connoisseur. So I'm gradually learning to appreciate the quality and taste of wine. But last week I learned to appreciate the complex process of making a good wine.
A certain winemaker in Portland has become a strong supporter of MTI and for the past several years has hosted a vineyard harvest party at his vineyard, Lago di Merlo, as a fundraising event for us. The harvest party took place two weekends ago, but the grapes were not quite ready to harvest on that Saturday. Grapes should be at at least level 19 on the Brix scale (which measures the sugar content of the grapes) in order to be ready for harvesting. Due to an oddly cool summer, these grapes were only at a level 17. So instead of harvesting grapes, the guests enjoyed a day in the sun playing bocce ball and feasting on fresh roasted pork and fine wine.
Apparently last week was the final harvest week for vineyards all across Oregon before the cold winter weather moved in. It was "all hands on deck" at the Merlo vineyard on Wednesday, so I took the morning off work and volunteered to pick grapes. I put on my rubber boots, bought a new pair of gardening gloves, borrow a pair gardening clippers, grabbed a bucket and started harvesting grapes! It was actually a beautiful day outside and picking grapes was so quite enjoyable "work"! It was a real community event. Eighty-seven-year-old Harry Merlo himself (yes his last name is Merlo and he is a winemaker - fate) was out there in the vineyard clipping grapes alongside a dozen migrant workers, the neighbor from across the fence, a group of interns from the World Forestry Center, some of the Merlo wine salesmen, and a few MTI volunteers who had been at the party a few days before.
All I did was spend a few hours clipping bunches of grapes off of the vines, but my little hands were a small part of the big process of turning those grapes into wine. And I can hardly wait to someday drink a glass of that what is sure to be a fine 2011 Willamette Valley Sauvignon Blanc.
the very fresh roasted pig at the harvest party
Wednesday morning grape picking
vines heavy with juicy Sauvignon Blanc grapes
Elvis, one of the World Forestry interns
who has since called me everyday to "greet me" and say "hello"
me and winemaker Harry with a bin full of harvested grapes