Some of our very dear friends live in Napa, and Napa means one thing: wine. About 3 years ago they planted a small hillside with rows of wine, to produce their own everyday wine: HJEM (which translated from danish means: HOME). Our family was lucky to get invited to participate in their first harvest this year, and together with other friends of the family, we started out early in the morning.
Wine grapes are harvested at night or early in the morning before the sun rises. It results in better wine, and knowing that, we easily got up before the sun. Daytime temperatures change the sugar composition of the grapes, so by picking at lower temperatures, when sugar levels are stable keeps surprises from happening during fermentation.
Picking grapes are hard work. We had a team of 11, some with more experience than others, honestly most of us were first-timers. It took about 2 hours to pick 503 pounds, just enough to make the 500 pounds mark. I’m not a numbers person so please forgive me for not remembering why this was such an important number.
After picking all the beautiful grapes, they had to be carried down to the crusher and weighing station.
I might be the only one still thinking you jump into the big barrel with your bare feet, and crushes the grapes. It turnes out that goes a while back. Today you use a machine called a crusher. You pure the grapes into it’s big “mouth” and by hand you turn a handle. The crusher, of cause crushes the grapes, but it also removes the stems.
With the crushing all done, the next step can begin. The fermentation of the grapes and the cleaning up. Here is what wikipedia says about fermentation of grapes: “During fermentation, yeasts transform sugars-present in the juice into ethanol and carbon dioxide (as a by-product). In winemaking, the temperature and speed of fermentation are important considerations as well as the levels of oxygen present in the must at the start of the fermentation. The risk of stuck fermentation and the development of several wine faults can also occur during this stage, which can last anywhere from 5 to 14 days for primary fermentation and potentially another 5 to 10 days for a secondary fermentation”.
Thank you for letting me document, and be part of the first HJEM harvest. I look forward to tasting it in the future.