September 20, 2008:
Just two days before the September equinox, the sun showed no signs of fading in fall, creating the perfect weather for my first experience in wine making. The other eager sorters and I got to work right away as load after load of Lightner Syrah passed through our hands. A praying mantis tried to battle us over a lovely little bunch of grapes, but we got rid of him without any war wounds. It’s no wonder he was so protective; the deep purple thick-skinned fruits were too tempting. I couldn’t help but sample a grape or two…or ten.
Next we moved on to the Girard Moudevre, whose grapes provided a light and sweet contrast to the bolder Syrah. Soon, it became apparent that having a random volunteer group of local Berkeley wine enthusiasts had its pluses and minuses. We were very picky about the quality of grapes we allowed through to the press, but our meticulousness slowed down the process. Soon, the irresistible aroma of garlic and feta emitting from the Cheeseboard Pizza boxes reminded us that it was almost lunchtime, and we began to work more quickly.
Before we could call it a day, though, we needed to pick out the “jacks” (aptly-named for the small grape stems that resembled those familiar little metal toys), and take some acid and temperature readings. To tide us over, a glass of the pink succulent grape juice was passed around. It was a drink to satisfy even the most demanding of sweet tooths—just one sip gave me an instant sugar rush. Soon enough, we were ready to relax and satisfy the appetites we worked up after a long morning of work. And after hours of touching, smelling, and examining the fruit of wine, we washed our pizza down with some nice Syrah, Chardonnay, and Rose, all of which had been created in that same location just years before. After this first encounter with winemaking, I can’t wait for a few years down the road when I can actually take a sip of Syrah and smile, knowing that I had a hand in making that very glass taste so good.