I’ve been home for close to two weeks – how can that be? I miss the winery and the friends I made while visiting. The 2011 harvest started in earnest mere days after my departure and I hope to be able to get some updates on how it is progressing.
In summary of what I observed and learned during my visit, I now understand what it takes to make a truly fine bottle of wine and why the cost of that bottle can be quite high. To be a wine maker you must possess knowledge in at least 4 key areas: 1) farming, 2) bio-science, 3) wine making (enology), and 4) what it takes to package, market and distribute the final product. Ken pointed out that wine is one of the only products that is grown, produced, packaged and distributed by one organization.
The amount of hands-on work that must be done in the vineyards is mind boggling. The vines have to be supported, fed, and culled by hand. When the grapes are in the final stages of ripening, all of the sampling has to be done by hand with meticulous attention to various areas of each vineyard. There are so many variables to consider.
Then there are the uncertainties of nature that I talked about in previous posts over which man has no control. Rainfall, pests, birds, onset of rot. Very few of the vineyards have irrigation systems, so nature controls the moisture levels. Cannons boom from the hillsides in an attempt to scare away the birds, but this is only marginally successful. Sometimes the vineyard owners must resort to yet another labor intensive method of protecting the grapes by installing netting.
From my conversations with Ken, Alison, and others I spoke with during my days in Oregon, I do not have the impression that anyone is getting rich growing grapes and making wine. It is truly a passion for these remarkable people and a lifestyle that they have chosen.