Ari's Vineyard Blog
Growing up around the winery, I have many fond memories that come flooding back when I work in the fields. They encompass all of my senses. Seeing the Okanagan sun pouring in through the lush green canopy of the vineyard, or recalling the smell of my dad's coat after he would come home from a full day out on the tractor, all covered in silty fine grey dust, and realizing that when I get home from work, I smell the same way. I remember watching the wheels of the Fendt compressing the soft dirt on the vineyard roads and finding a certain satisfaction in following the never ending pattern created by the tread. I would stomp my five year-old self around, up and down the rows followed by my German shepherd, Butler. Some days my dad would sit me on his lap and we would cruise around the perimeter trails in the tractor together for what seemed like ages. Inevitably I would fall asleep, either from the throaty diesel engine or the bumpy terrain, but probably both. It was always such a treat, and I never turned down the chance to go check things out with pops.
Though life has certainly spun me around in many directions, and I’ve followed different paths, when I recall these memories it is clear that my roots were set in my youth, and that there is grape juice in my blood. I am thrilled to be learning the language of the vine, and to have the chance to participate in this ancient ritual.
Though growing up on the farm instilled a love for the visceral experience of the vineyard, I did not develop an appreciation for wine, or what it takes to make it, until only a few years ago. I had worked as a cellar hand off and on through the latter half of my teenage years, working the bottling line, labeling, disgorging, and cleaning, but only developed a keen interest when I took a summer job several years later in the wine shop. At the time, my knowledge of wine tasting was somewhat limited, though I had picked up enough lingo to be passable. A large part of the job is being familiar with the product, like any job in sales, and the staff in the wine shop answered many primary questions over and over for me until I got the general feel for the job. Learning to recognize the expression of terroir in the glass, and observing the many nuances and layers of aromas and flavors, was truly mind blowing for an epicurean like myself, and when my interest in developing my pallet became apparent on the job, I was invited by my brother Ezra to participate in the WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) Level 2 course. Here you are taught a systematic way to taste and assess wines through observing color, aroma, intensity, flavor, body, ripeness, acidity, etc. I became very excited as once every week, we tasted wines of varying quality from nearly every major wine making region on the planet. I suppose it is true of many things, but the wine world is one where the more you know, the larger that world becomes. The vast depth and cultural significance found in viticulture around the world is staggering.
I returned to the cellar that autumn to work crush, with a real desire to see the wine making process through from fruit to bottle. I will spare the details of scrubbing tanks and fixing pumps, but I will say that working crush at a winery is an intense experience that is absolutely worth doing in your life in my opinion. I conquered my fear of heights and confined spaces, learned a heck of a lot about the broad strokes of wine making, and learned that I can work almost a twelve hour shift five days in a row in the freezing cold through the middle of the night and survive. Never have I drunk so much coffee in my life. The most amazing part about working crush for me though, was tasting the grapes when they came off the truck and onto the crush pad. Noting where each load of fruit came from, and tasting the same variety of grape from one part of the valley and then from another part of the valley was truly amazing. The range of flavors, colors and intensities were so diverse that I really understood why I have always heard so many people say: "great wine starts in the vineyard".
Last spring I entered the vineyard for the first time as a daily job, doing grunt work and learning the basics of what it is to work with the vines. I had spent a few seasons traveling around the coast and interior of BC interning on organic farms and had nurtured a deep love for plants and a keen interest in Permaculture design, which allowed me to feel at home even more so in the vineyard. After spending a full season from suckering to pruning, I knew that walking the vineyard rows was going to be a must for me for years to come. This year I am very fortunate to be apprenticing under Summerhill's winemaker/viticulturist Eric von Krosigk and vineyard manager Willem Semmelink to further my education in vineyard management. My intention for this blog is to document my journey into the world of wine growing, and to entice others to join this wonderful industry. I hope to bring a fresh perspective in organic management to the current paradigm and to share my findings and collaborations.
Stay tuned for updates, insights, stories, and anecdotes.
Here's to grapes!