It isn’t fall without a harvest of some kind. This year I am blessed. Tomatoes and peppers in the back yard, my busking, which is a harvest of all those years of practice and skill building that I didn’t realize I was doing. My favorite harvest of all is the crush, though. It is something my dad has done since before I can really remember, and it has accordingly been woven into my life, part of the cycle of the seasons. There have been years without it, but even then, I always think of the grapes in August and September.
At its best, it starts early, early in the morning. Accordingly, we had to get up at the crack of oh-dark-thirty. Of course, if I hadn’t left my wallet and 5# of meat at work, we could have slept in a bit longer, but it did add to the experience I suppose. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge heading for Novato before dawn. We saw the full moon in darkness crossing the Bay Bridge, and tendrils of fog were added to the experience on her more famous sister. It was one of those perfect mornings where the marine layer is low on the water, but the skies are largely clear above. One of those mornings that persuades people to move to San Francisco where they learn what is, to them, the awful truth, that it is indeed cold and gray here most of the time.
We met up in Novato and drove to Windsor. The vineyard was beautiful–they all are, but this one was something special:
We picked merlot, and we had a lot of people this year wanting to have the whole experience. With ten people, we picked 400 lbs. in less than 45 minutes. The fruit was beautiful, sweet and small and perfect:
Since there was really so little work to do, I took a moment to talk to the vines. Muin, the vine, has an ogham correspondence. Some see it as the bramble, others the vine. Having grown up in the Bay Area, I see it in both plants. Muin is the path of the voice, the strength of it to unite as the vine and the bramble climb on the backs of other things to reach the light. Whether that be a trellis, a tree, or an idea, the principle is the same. Muin has a dark side, however. Beautiful words are not necessarily true, and a vine can strangle that which supports it. Wine brings misery as well as joy if its power is not respected and understood.
I didn’t have much time, and frankly, these vines were singing only one song, of joy and completion. They were focused on fruit, twinkling purple and green in my mind, one soaring note of fulfillment. I was busy too, it was all too soon time to leave, to tell the rest of the story, to set the table and the equipment, to coax people into the harvest dance. Come, take off your shoes, wash your feet and feel the grapes between your toes. Just like Lucille Ball, it only feels icky for a moment, till you remember what your ancestors knew. Wine is magic, the god is trampled beneath your feet and rises stronger than before. Plunge your hands into the bin, pick out the stems until the must is soft with grape skins and seeds. Let it rest, and next year we will feast and drink what this year was fruit soaking in the summer sunlight. Or some other year. By now my dad has been doing this so long that there’s always quite a selection. To me, that is the taste of home.