There's not much to it. You pick the grapes, crush them by foot, de-stem if needed and dump them in a fermenter. The fermenter, a one-ton macro-bin sits under the old oak tree behind the winery. After a few days the fermentation begins. Just like that.
It seems so simple, so natural as we use no yeast, sulfur or acid additions as was the norm at wineries in my past. These interventions are not required by Mother Nature. Then it's hands-on punch downs every day and soon your hands are stained burgundy red. There is something different about this kind of winemaking. You are mentally and physically part of the wine. This is not a process, it's a philosophy, a way of life. You and the wine are connected.
At Troon the same crew, the same people, tend the vines, harvest the grapes and make the wines. No sorting table is needed at harvest because the pickers are the same people that farmed each vine throughout the vintage. They only pick the perfect bunches, because these grapes are their grapes. They are harvesting a full year of work with each bunch cut from the vine.
After years in the Napa Valley I was shocked at the deliberate pace of the pickers during harvest here at Troon in the Applegate Valley. In Napa the picking crews are well-oiled machines and picking is at super-human speeds, which makes the pickers seem more mechanical than human as they surgically remove fruit from vine. Here in Oregon the picking pace is slower, but not any less work. Yet by dialing back the speed of picking the harvest seems to be the work of people, not machines. A picker that knows each row and vine treats the fruits of their year long labors with the respect that only sweat equity can understand. Their work needs no second guessing on a sorting table.
The simple elegance of the process and the personal hands-on experience of growing and making wine this way cannot help but make you feel more connected. You are connected to the land, the vines, the wines, the people who make them and to the people who will drink them. Feeling this connection is the most rewarding feeling I've ever had in thirty-five years in the wine business.
Wine should be a connection. It should connect the drinker with the land and people that brought the vineyard to life in a bottle of wine. This harvest I'm feeling very connected.