Wine grapes can be unpredictable and this fall’s harvest showed just how much patience they need. Some of the harvest arrived early and the rest trickled in when it was ready, forcing us to start the vinification process again, every week for a month
– WAH. It was labor intensive – the crushing, testing, adjusting, fermenting, pressing, and cleaning, Cleaning, CLEANING of both machines and the space – but it’s truly a labor of love. The process has been long and slow thus far, as the grapes arrive and the steps must be replicated precisely.
The vintner’s goal here is to ensure consistency in the end product – coaxing the best out of different varietals from different vineyards, either purposely by design or circumstances unforeseen by nature, timing, or luck. Each vintage surprises us in crazy ways, for better or worse, but the great news is that every year we do more than pull it off – we own it. And, just to be clear, we pull it off twice a year, counting our friends from the southern hemisphere.
Maintaining a baseline level of consistency, each critical step must be timed precisely according to an end goal in mind. The wine grapes must be cared for when harvested at their appropriate sugar and acid levels, packaged into 36lb crates, shipped across the country, dropped off on my sidewalk, carried downstairs to the patio, crushed and de-stemmed into fermentation tubs, cold soaked, inoculated with yeast, nutrients, and enzymes each and every time. Care, attention, and what we call ‘sticking to the script’ needs to happen with every delivery. Needless to say, it’s been a very busy season.
So enough rambling about the not so secrete sauce of winemaking 101 and on to what sets this winery apart. A few things change every year at the VWc and a few things stay the same. New members from different walks of life and with different interests and impressions of winemaking and wine drinking come through event after event. We’re at the stage now where we can mix the new member experience; the eager dumping of grapes into a crusher or learning how the wine press presses, with the expanding interests of the OG crowd; those now relatively dangerous in the basics of urban wine-making and ready to explore big reds, crisp whites, and sparkling roses. What always has been a presumption but has now become a reality after several vintages is that consistency and quality are directly related to the investments made in the highest grade fruit, equipment, and the process.
As the Vintage of 2014 is born from the grapes grown thousands of miles away, to one day become the golden- or ruby-hued wonder in your glass, keep in mind that ‘consistency’ is the archnemesis of ‘small production’. Maintaining production at capacity, which we reached last fall, means we can now start to focus on nailing the most consistent product and highest quality urban winemaking techniques ever practiced. New space saving containers, tried and trusted traditions, and a little bit of science combined with palate-pleasing foods and fun, results in an experience that doesn’t exist anywhere else in New York City. And if that’s the case, who needs to churn out a million cases per year?
I say if we can’t make more – Let’s Make it Better.