You know the feeling - throbbing heart, clammy hands, and insurmountable angst. You know can’t finish on time. You just can’t get it done. You can’t get a grip. Just when your belly gets all twisty, you bolt into consciousness and feel your steamy pillow and sweat-soaked pajamas. The alarm clock blinks 2:37 am. It’s a classic stress dream. Whether you’re back in college, unprepared for that mid term exam, lecturing from a podium in your birthday suit, or racing against the clock to finish some absurd project, the outcome is the same: a crappy night of sleep and an ever crappier day ahead. For me, the real start to harvest is the annual harvest stress dream, which happens on cue the second week of August. So imagine my surprise when my night’s sleep and subsequent day were ruined by a springtime harvest nightmare. It’s only because merry grape growers in every trade magazine predict an “unprecedented third year bumper crop” that I can dissect my neuroses with good humor.
My dream began like any other day of harvest, in May. But everything quickly unraveled, like an upside-down fun house reflection of actual harvest. The first sign of mortification was finding myself staring down bins of cabernet sauvignon. I know nothing about making cabernet, and my subconscious concurred. “I don’t even know what yeast to use!” protested unconscious self. Help was at hand, in the form of an old high school classmate*, who knows a lot about making wine. I’ve heard he’s an amateur collector. He recommended “572,” in an especially venomous bite of mockery. Of course there’s no yeast named “527,” but I did buy M83 for my 2013 rose. It was an impetuous, impulse buy; I’d been dazzled by its fancy Bandol pedigree. Since then, every time I pitch the rose to trade I forget the name of the yeast. “And this year I used this cool, new rose yeast from Provence, called…eh, you know from Bandol, France. Um, right.”
En route to buy 572, a random cellar rat told me not to bother. He’d already inoculated the cabernet for me, without asking. Except it wasn’t supposed to get yeast for another 48 hours. I was exasperated and totally freaking out. “And you can’t make it here,” he bellowed after me. Apparently, I had to switch facilities to make cabernet. I’d be commuting to Napa. Fade to black. Subconscious self materialized at the Napa winery. A Rastafarian with dreadlock presided over operations. He had a lot of ideas about making cabernet. He probably detected the word “poser” reflected on my forehead. I felt unglued. Around the time he was searching Pandora for the “right” harvest tune, I escaped to wakefulness. In that fuzzy twilight between dream and wakefulness, I tried to tease out some meaning. Will James kick me out of MacPhail if I insist on those labor-intensive puncheon fermentations? What was the name of that rose yeast? Do my 2012 pinots stink? Do Rastafarians drink cabernet?
The good news is that my imminent reality is all rainbows and daffodils. The weather has been mild, and fruit set looks strong. We’ve secured all of our amazing fruit sources for 2014, from pinot to zin. And I am looking forward to bottling the 2013 home ranch as “Torrey Hill.” If you’re interested in the high school back-story, please read on for full disclosure.
*In a fit of spring-cleaning, my mom resurrected my senior year high school yearbook. She returned it to me this Mother’s Day weekend, to remind me of my spent youth. Moms are thoughtful like that. Flipping though the old photos obviously informed my dreams. This photo gem was nestled among other snapshots of 1980’s fashion. I thought I looked awesome.