August is harvest month and there has been a flurry of activity around the vineyard. As the fruit ripens and turns color (veraison) the sugars rise and acid level falls. This attracts birds and deer that will eat the fruit. So we must lay large nets over the vines for the next week or so to detour them. This can be quite a job when you have acres of vines! Some grapes have disappeared from hungry critters feasting on the fruit. Months of cultivation of the vines can result in a lost crop overnight.
The Harvest party is planned for Saturday, August 26, 2017. This is our main event when we thank our volunteers by offering free wine and food for their help with the harvest. Picking will continue for the next 2 or 3 weeks as the grapes reach just the right level of sweetness (measured in brix). We are walking the vineyard daily and gauging readiness of the grapes that must be harvested within a very narrow window of time.
One of the wines that we bottled earlier this year won a silver award at the Iowa State Fair this month. Edelweiss Conger was made from Edelweiss grapes grown in Agency, Iowa by our friend, Mike Conger. This white wine has been very popular with those that enjoy a drier taste. As of this writing we have 8 cases left, so let us know if you’d like to reserve some before they are sold out.
My last month’s story was about the idea that wine could be considered consumable art. Wine is the medium and the winemaker is the artist. I like that analogy because creativity is an important factor in the enjoyment of life. We take the resources around us, look at it in a different way and create something new and wonderful – grapevines produce fruit and that fruit becomes wine. Without creativity the world would be a much duller and uninteresting place.
Mike and I believe it is important to support local creative talent. This is especially crucial in a small town like ours where opportunities to bring work to the public may be limited for any number of reasons. Visual artists, performers and writers should have a place to come together to showcase their art in their own location where they live, work and socialize. We are fortunate that we have many types of artists working in our community and even more fortunate to have the ability to be able to bring these together for the enjoyment of our friends, neighbors, and visitors.
We hope that whether you are a local or a visitor, you can take some time and stop by Nearwood Winery Tasting Room July 30 to August 13 for our Art & Authors showcase. We have special events planned that combine visual art, writing, and music and of course delicious wine! Check our website calendar and Facebook event page for updates. Email us at email@example.com for more information.
Color, weight, balance, intensity, feeling. These are terms used in visual art to describe perception. Add the words aroma, taste, and mouth feel, and you will have embodied a portion of the essence of what we seek in wine. Like individual visual artists, a winemaker must choose the materials, processes, and preferences to achieve a particular outcome. The initial point of entry of this journey is the grapevines. Grapes are the winemaker’s canvas and paint. Every artist or winemaker starts with similar raw materials whether it is canvas, paint, or grapes.
Grapes grown in Iowa are not the same as those available in California or other regions of moderate climate. Of course, winemakers are not limited to their own growing region. Anyone can purchase grapes from other areas of the country. However, most winemakers choose to grow their own crop as part of their endeavor to create an affordable, local product. Historically artists have always used resources that are nearby and gathered inspiration to what they experience around them in their own environment.
The artist must assemble the frame, stretch and prime the canvas to prepare for the paint. Size, shape and surface are taken into consideration for the final product. The winemaker cultivates the crop throughout the season by pruning, clearing the soil of weeds and nurturing the roots that reach deep underground for nourishment. The grapes emerge from tiny buds, then to flowers, and finally to recognizable fruit.
The painter creates the visual expression using judgment from experience, knowledge and an intuitive sense. Most of the time the process advances smoothly as expected. Other times happy accidents occur which leads the artist down an alternative creative path. On the other hand, the vision may be thwarted by obstacles and the artist must discard the canvas and start again.
Fermentation and aging of the wine happens after the grapes are harvested, pressed into juice and contained into tanks. The winemaker must use judgment, experience and an intuitive sense to manipulate taste, color, balance, and finish time. Many unforeseen perils can occur at this point or later that may spoil the wine and all the work invested has been in vain. Thankfully, the majority of the time the wine is finished as the winemaker expected.
The winemaker and the artist both start with the materials available to all who travel the road of creativity. They add their own unique vision and interpretation. The results reflect their judgment, experience, and knowledge. It is as unique as a signature that completes the work.
The painting is ready to hang on the wall. The winemaker’s art is poured into a glass.