Wine making: you grow some grapes, you stomp on them, put it in a barrel, then you
have wine! Right? Not quite.
A few weeks ago, Sam and I were able to go behind the scenes of the wine making
process. We visited Biola University's Organic Farm in La Mirada, CA to examine their grape vines and learn from the professors that run the project, Brendon and Jason. Although the grapes they are growing are 'Table Grapes' rather than 'Wine Grapes', the visit offered a lot of insight on the growing process.
We came before the harvest season, so there wasn’t any growth on the vines. However,
they explained the five-year process that went into cultivating what they have now; let me tell
you--these guys put so much care into choosing the right plant and training it to grow where
they want it and how they want it. They perfect the plant through pruning to ensure that the
energy inside of it is going toward concentrated, fruitful (and sweet) growth rather than that
same amount of energy shared across an entire long vine.
Growing is a consuming process that has to take all factors into account; soil, sun, temperature, and time, just to name a few. For example, Jason wasn’t expecting the great amounts of rain Biola got the past year, so excessive watering resulted in a setback for the vine. The weather in any given year can make or break the grapes, so it’s up to the grower to maintain a plant that will produce quality grapes by reading the vine itself and the conditions that the environment is providing during its growth.
Hearing all of the hard work and patience that went into the maintenance of this small
organic farm made me think of how intense it must be to maintain an entire vineyard. It’s not a
matter of letting the vine do its thing and turning the grapes into wine, but guiding the plant to
get the best out of its conditions.
The growing process is an important and delicate step in the
making of wine. The quality of the grape ends up determining the quality of the wine, so
growth is a process that really has some value to us wine lovers! I know that I have a whole new
appreciation for this first step in the wine making process.
Cheers to our grape growers, and cheers to you!