Rime of an Ancient Winemaker

Twas 8 weeks before Christmas, and all through the land Jew boys and Jew girls tried hard to understand

Why Christmas should rule the T.V. and the mall

While the Hanukkah story gets no play at all.


Now every Jew knows about Santa and sleds

And of elves making toys and of Rudolph the Red.

There are tinsel and trees with a star at the top

While the Hanukkah stuff just gets kinda forgot.


And deep in the night when the house is asleep

Jew boys and Jew girls have been known to weep,

“I like my traditions and all that fried food

But why can’t we celebrate some Christmas too?”


One morn that followed an evening like that

I took my sweet child up onto my lap.

“Why child,” I said. “Dry your tears. Go and play.

For Hanukkah miracles happen each day.”


“They do?” said the boy, now curious and rapt.

He assumed my kind words were some flim-flam sham act.

“Don’t you know of the tale of this harvest just past

With those stuck fermentations that just last, last, and last?”


“Like Hanukkah oil that burned strong and true,

My ferments still dragged out beyond day twenty-two.

And instead of a quick and a clean sugar drain

That 2012 harvest was really a pain.”


“Not quite” the boy shrugged. “A miracle decried.

You got stress alopecia and twice tried suicide.”

“I know,” I demurred, “But when days looked most bleak

Came the Hanukkah miracle of which I now speak.”


And so I began with the legend so wise

It should surely contend for a Nobel Lit prize.

(Or a Booker or Oprah’s seal of success,

But back to the story for now I digress).


When my ferment first began to go slow,

I got quite confused and had nowhere to go.

‘Till I called on a wizard of heart pure and good

Who likes to ferment in foudres of wood.


He gave me a potion to add my brew

A build-up of yeast, when my own wouldn’t do.

It goes by initials “W” & “S”

and promises rapid and un-stuck success.


“Just punch down the cap and pitch this inside,”

Cried the wizard with wisdom to which I’d abide.

“I promise this potion will help you get through

The stickiest of stuckest ferments of grape juice.”


My angina resolved. My stress ulcers all healed.

I bet you can imagine just how good I feel’d.

The wizard then filled up my chalice with yeast

And I heave-ho’d that magical, moveable feast.


(OK, I confess, I embellished a bit.

I wasn’t a “chalice,” I’ll outright admit.

A plastic 5 gallon, filtered water container

I used as a Saccharomyces yeast trainer.)


I clutched to my breast that full Culligan jug

Lest it splash-slosh all over my minivan rug.

Please don’t dish to police all about my bad rap

Since I drove with that 5 gallon jug in my lap.


And as I made haste with my potion in tow

The wizard called out just before I could go.

“We’ll give it The Hammer!” he cried out with glee.

“That’s a whole gallon more than you’ll probably need.”


“The Hammer! I love it!” I countered right back.

The Force! The Power! Them yeast were like crack.

“The Hammer?!” my son interjected and stammered.

(I’d been sort of absorbed by my own brilliant banter.)


“Umh, yeah. ‘The Hammer.’ Isn’t that what I said?

Now let me complete this great yarn to the end.”

But my son would not curtail his frank interruption.

His words flowed out like a volcanic eruption.


“’The Hammer’s’ the name of the Hanukkah hero.

The guy who wins against odds close to zero!

And you used “The Hammer” to finish your wine

To unstick that stickiest suckiest time.”


"So, mom, then it’s true,” he said with a grin

“The Hammer could finish what you did begin.”


When I pulled out my hair and at night gnashed my teeth,

When I banged my head on the wall for a week,

I tried to relax, and I tried to be cool

For that fab Hammer yeast is no winemaker’s fool.


My pinot got dry, as the wizard predicted.

Like he’d seen it before; like my stress was just scripted.

And now that it’s done, and I’m filled with relief

I’m a little bit wishing for more fruit next week.


My Hanukkah miracle came a month early.

But it makes for a really good post-harvest story.


When your yeast slows to stuck, it can give you a fright.

You need strong, Hammer yeast to get wine done just right.

Since my wine’s now complete, I can finally sleep tight.

“Happy Malo to all! You’re in barrel. Good night!”