When you last heard from this wandering wino, I had just arrived at the vineyard gates of Cass Winery after a short and bucolic drive from my digs of the previous night, High Ridge Manor. Feeling relaxed, rested, and excited to finally get into the vineyards, I drove, slowly, so as not to disturb the dust mites, (was that for real, Steve?), deep into the vineyard past rows of ripening Grenache, Rousanne, Malbec and Syrah. The heavily laden vines seemed to stretch on forever, with the vineyard dotted here and there by massive oaks spreading their long limbs over the vines as if to protect them. The well grazed hills rolled on the horizon and the bright morning sun illuminated the whole picture. My mission that day was to participate in my first ever harvest and the first harvest of the year for Cass – the Viognier was ready!
The excitement was tangible as Steve and Ted, co-owners, Lood the winemaker, pickers and friends all gathered in the vineyard and walked up and down the rows, looking hopeful that this was going to be a year plentiful with sweet, ripe fruit. On my approach, I could see that the pickers were already busy and that the bins loaded on the tractor trailer were quickly being filled. The buzz was good, everyone seemed happy. The fruit was indeed plentiful, and as I tasted those fresh off the vine grapes for the first time, their sweetness confirmed that delicious wine had once again started its journey from vineyard to bottle. How exciting to experience the source of the wine that we share with friends in celebration, toasting a holiday or just enjoying quality time with those we love. Those moments start here, and it’s humbling to witness this fruit being given from the vine over to the hands of those who will nurture it into a bottle of, as Galileo put it, “light held together by water”.
After introductions, I took my place alongside the bins. My job was to gently go through the clusters in the bin pulling out any debris or unripe clusters. The chatter was lively as we worked, the sun warm and nurturing, and our hands sticky from the grapes.
After some time at this, I took a walk through the vineyard. Just couldn’t get over the beauty of those grape clusters hanging so perfectly from their vines.
I followed the road up to the winery where Lood had already begun to process his treasure. An amazing thing is the de-stemming machine. Whole clusters are loaded into the hopper where they start their brief journey through the machine and emerge, separated, into two piles. One pile holds all the bare stems, while the other holds a mound of grapes, now glistening with juice from being ever so slightly crushed. It reminded me of the way red caviar looks when mounded in a bowl. Transparent, but full of color and “glistening”.
After dodging the forklift a few too many times, I sought cooling refuge in the tasting room. There I met up with my new friend from August’s I’ll Drink to That meeting, Lindsay Dodson Brown. Happy to run into a familiar face, we chatted while she poured me a tasting of two of their newer wines, and of course, the Viognier.
I’LL DRINK TO THAT!
Cass Viognier – 2008 – This crop got harassed first by frost, then by sweltering drought. The yield, though, did produce fruit that after tank fermentation and blending with a bit of Marsanne, resulted in a lovely expression of this varietal. Beautiful floral nose and a rich mouthfeel with flavors of peach, apricot and pear. Absolutely delicious. Try this with crab cakes!