Yesterday was a great day. I spent a good portion of it in the vineyard, picking merlot grapes at Alcantara Vineyard and Winery. The small, handcrafted batches that this superb winery produces is among the pleasures I will now include in my life. I’ve not been a wine drinker up until now. I wasn’t willing to spend the money that is recommended for a good bottle, so I missed what this experience should be: delightful and luxurious. I may not drink wine everyday, but when I do drink it from now on it will be the best I can afford. I am converted to the cause.
At the close of the day, and after picking countless bunches of these beautiful, blueberry like fruits, several of us came in and enjoyed a glass of wine while the clouds darkened overhead and thunderclaps sounded in the distance. This environment was like being in Tuscany…almost. Granted, it’s Arizona and it’s high desert. Still, the feel of the building and the zeal of these people for what they do is contagious. This winery is owned and operated by people doing what they’re passionate about, and it increases the enjoyment of their wine because it has helped them to create something of great quality. It is a characteristic worth emulating.
Because this winery is small and has grafted itself into this high desert community, they put out a call for volunteers to come out and help get in the harvest. The reward is wine at the day’s end and the satisfaction of contributing to what will become a first class, beautiful and living Merlot wine. The production is small enough that they have been known to run out. This is a rare treat, drinking the wine of Alcantara. You won’t find it on grocery store shelves, and it is never diluted for the sake of mass production.
The day before, my friend and I had gone into the tasting room and found a deck complete with beautiful views and the bonus of an afternoon rain. It was breezy and lazy, the wine was perfect. In the course of our stay there the owner announced the beginning of the merlot harvest and “invited” us to come and help. It was an offer we couldn’t refuse, and I’m so glad I didn’t. My hands were hurting and my back a little sore, but still…I would not have missed it. The sense of comraderie and community while out there was very satisfying. The aromas, the authenticity of this experience and the very real sense of achievement all combined to make a most perfect day.
If you get the chance to work a harvest in a vineyard, do so. This isn’t machine harvesting. Human hands have touched these grapes and the product will show it. This is art, and love, and winemaking at it’s best.