Sunday, April 02, 2006

Our First Cosecha: Participating in the Wine Harvest

One of the most amazing things about living in Mendoza is really living in the wine culture. During the beginning of March, the province of Mendoza celebrates Vendimia – the harvest festival. There are parties across Mendoza, and a queen is chosen from each of the 18 departments (think counties). Wine is everywhere – in every store window, at the cleaners, at the bakery – you name it. Everyone has wine on display.

On Wednesday we participated in our first cosecha. To give you a sense of how deeply wine is embedded in the culture, when we told Amelia’s teachers that she would be out for the day joining a cosecha – they all knew exactly what we were talking about. “Uvas, por favor,” they said, “please bring back grapes for the children to share.”

We began the day at one of Pablo’s family vineyards – the Gimenez-Rilli Merlot vineyard – just east of Mendoza city. To give everyone at Vines of Mendoza the opportunity to participate, we closed the Tasting Room and Information Center and traveled by caravan to the property. Everyone, including Mia, got an opportunity to pick. We received crates, scissors, and a little instruction in proper cutting techniques, and then we were off.

Once we filled our crates with grapes, we took them to the foreman who gave us a token for each crate we filled. If we had stayed the entire day, we could have exchanged the tokens for pesos at the end of the day – each filled crated earned us 90 centavos (almost a peso). Instead, we gave tokens to the farm workers and left with a much deeper appreciation of how important (and challenging) their work is. (Editor’s note: We picked 1 tub in 2 hours -- a good picker picks 60 in a day - we are really bad at picking and could never survive on our picking skills. Did you notice that I just named myself the editor?) We have added some photos of the picking here. For even better photos, check out the pics the professional photographer took (not that you aren't a professional, honey!).

From the vineyard, we traveled to the winery, to watch the next step in the winemaking process. After the grapes arrive on the truck, they are sorted and put through a de-stemming machine. They are then loaded into big metal containers which are hoisted up to the top of large tanks, and carefully dropped down into the tanks to begin a process called whole-grape fermentation. As the grapes are layered on top of each other, juice flows out of the bottom of the tank and is then pumped back up to the top. Typically this process, which is called remontage, lasts about 40 days.

After we finished touring the winery, we joined Pablo’s family and the Gimenez-Rilli staff for an asado. It was a beautiful day--the winery is located in a gorgeous old colonial-style building—and the food and the wine were fabulous. I met two women from Washington DC, Lauren and Heather, the night before at dinner, and they joined us for the day. As Lauren said at one point, “This has been an amazing day!” And it was for all of us…


At 11:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vince...I love the "professional" photograph of you and Mia cutting the grapes down! :) Of course, your photos are great too but you weren't in any of them!

Can you send a bottle of that wine up to Minnesota? :) Miss and love you three, Julie


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