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Old World Grape Harvest in Murphys
In the early morning, before the sun begins to crest above the mountains, I can hear a tractor chugging, making its way through the vineyard. I sip my coffee in the semi-darkness, enjoying the unmistakable feeling of a morning on the brink of Autumn. Listening to the early birds all around me, catching their worms, I watch the sun’s first rays light up the vineyard. The vines, a sea of green with waves of yellow, orange, and red, so recently heavy with fruit, are now free of their burden. The pickers drop the last bin of grapes in a long row at the winery just as our crew begins to arrive, having left only a few hours before. A new day has begun.
I’ve been to Napa, and have watched their high tech equipment sort grapes with a speed and efficiency we will never be able to match. Here in Murphys, as we near the end of harvest and our backs are aching, our hands are stained and caked with tartrates, and we have barely slept, you would think we would be envious. But as our crew stands together around the table, hand sorting grapes to a rhythm that transcends music, I know I wouldn’t trade our Old World techniques for anything.
Under the direction of Winemaker Nathan Vader, who makes wine for Vina Moda and Villa Vallecito Vineyards in Murphys, as well as Euclid out of Napa, our crew has spent eight straight weeks in each other’s company. From early morning, through the afternoon, and into the night, when we can feel the breeze from New Melones meet the heat of the day rising from the blacktop at our feet, we sort the grapes we have come to know intimately. By varietal, we know their taste, color and smell, the thickness of their skins, the way they feel in our hands and all of the characteristics that set them apart from the rest. Anything less than perfection is deftly tossed into the compost bin, where it will give new life to next year’s crop.
We have come together to create something beautiful, a work of art, and as the clusters of grapes move through our hands, any pretenses or ego that may follow us in our day to day life vanish. We work together, laugh together, trade words of wisdom and tell stories of our pasts. We take turns providing a feast at twilight each day, just as harvest crews around the world have done for generations, sitting together and replenishing ourselves for the long hours still ahead. When the moon has risen high above our heads, we pass around a bottle of a previous vintage for inspiration and talk of loves lost and found, triumphs and tragedies, hopes and fears. After so many hours, days, and weeks together, we aren’t able to be anyone but who we truly are. Here, we are family.
Our crew, getting ready to tackle Grenache on the last day of crush.
Napa may have fancy equipment, and their wine may command a higher price. But this community, this wine, has heart and depth that reminds me of a bygone era. Wine was meant to be made with passion and care, dedication and hard work. I like to think that the Old World winemakers would be proud, knowing that we are carrying on their traditions.
Note: This article was originally published in the November 2012 edition of The Mountain Chronicle.
Fall 2012 Newsletter
This year, our crew crushed more of all your favorites from our current lineup: Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Payaso, Syrah and Barbera, along with the first small yield of fruit from our new Chardonnay and Sagrantino vines, grafted this past Spring.
With spectacular views in every direction on the vineyard, grapes that are a winemaker’s dream, and wonderful responses from visitors to our tasting room, Villa Vallecito Vineyards owner Ghee Hagedorn says, "The Lord has really blessed this land, the fruit and the tasting room".
And what good would such blessings be without sharing them? We hope that you'll stop in and see us at our tasting room the next time you're in Murphys, or will consider joining us on the vineyard for our next event. We have enjoyed getting to know so many of you at Tapas on the Terraza and at our Wine Member Gala. Or, if coming in to see us isn't an option, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter or Pinterest, we'd love to hear from you!
And don't forget to bookmark our website: VillaVallecitoVineyards.com, where you can learn more about our history and staff, book a stay on our vineyard, read our blog and discover all of the benefits of joining "La Familia", our wine club. You can also order online, if you've got a craving for your favorite Villa Vallecito Vineyards wine and you're not able to make it in to Murphys. Barbera lovers, don't fret when you see that we're out of stock. Now that harvest is over, we will focus our efforts on a second round of bottling for our 2010 Barbera Reserve. If all goes well and "bottle shock" is minimal, you can look forward to enjoying this phenomenal wine again in February, 2013.
Since opening our tasting room doors in June, we have truly enjoyed sharing our wines with all of you. We have put so much love, care and attention into each one, from the time the first grape leaves sprouted on the vines to the moment we poured them into your glass. Thank you for joining us on this wonderful adventure, and for taking part in our passion for big, bold, beautiful California wines!
Until we meet again, from all of us at Villa Vallecito Vineyards, Salud!
Introducing Villa Vallecito Vineyards, Winery & Tasting Room
For many years, Villa Vallecito Vineyards was just that - 12 acres of Vineyards surrounding the Vallecito home of Ghee and Alan Hagedorn.
In 2008, after tending the vineyards for 7 years and selling the grapes to wineries throughout the Sierra Foothills, Ghee and Alan decided to ask winemaker Nathan Vader to custom crush a few cases of Barbera for their personal enjoyment.
The result was our amazing 2008 Barbera, which was awarded a Bronze medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in 2011. Receiving such an accolade on the first and only wine Villa Vallecito Vineyards ever produced led to a major decision: Villa Vallecito Vineyards would become a Winery.
And so, in the fall of 2010, Villa Vallecito Vineyards harvested their grapes as usual, this time keeping much of the fruit to make their own wine, rather than selling it all to other wineries. Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Grenache and Syrah all made their way to the winery where they began the process to become the stellar wines they are today.
We hope you will enjoy them as much as we do!
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