Our apologies for spending such a prolonged period of time with the lotus-eaters instead of keeping you abreast of our fledgling project creating the most expensive wine possible (but not on purpose). Where we left you last we were preparing for the winter of 2013 but without knowing what would truly come. Just as success stared us in the face like Ithaca did Odysseus, so did the wind seek its opportunity to send us off to misadventure. Winter struck not with the soft whisper of a cold breeze but with the sudden fury and sadness of a frustrated transit employee. Howling, cruel wind licked and the freezing temperatures snapped at what was already a makeshift trellis leaving it in an emotional and physical condition shared only by the “Galloping Gertie” of the Tacoma Narrows. In a word? Ruination (tip of the cap). The trellis system lay in shambles like the front lawn of a frat party. The vines while still standing lay bent, misshapen, twisting as though broken. Worse still, the end posts so laboriously dug tented inward from the strain of the ice that coated the lines as though they were trying to complain about our incompetence in clandestine whispers. As we first approached the vineyard in the spring, it took all in us not to exclaim at the top of our lungs “WHY?!?! WHY DIDN’T WE JUST MAKE BEER?!?!”. However, tragedy passes, knuckles are cracked, and in those ember days of spring we could rebuild.
Rebuilding proved difficult but not impossible, a few rethreading lines, a few holes dug, a few expletives uttered, but all in all an surmountable process. While not the most auspicious start to the year, it began what can only be described as the most bountiful year Table Flip has had in its meager history. It took longer than expected for the vines to wake up from their slumber but considering the rending they suffered over the winter, we allowed them the time to hit the snooze button like a rebellious teen with chores to do on a Sunday. Once they had risen though, they shot forth like a rocket that even von Braun would be proud of. Soon it was not whether they’d survive or not but rather “jeepers, they are way too big” which posed a new problem. Grape clusters require direct sunlight during the growing process in order to ripen properly, meaning that if the vine gets too big and there are too many leaves covering them with shade, then the grapes won’t ripen and they won’t be wine worthy. Diligently but not without sorrow we trimmed them back every week. Yanking at the leaves and piling them up for some imagined funeral pyre. That is… except Napoleon. One vine, with its proverbial tendril jammed in its jacket, watched as the other thrived from the top of the hill. A tiny general, a little imp, a satyr observing from on high. This was not to be Napoleon’s year, he survived the winter but either because of an underground spring close by, or the increased shade in the area, he simply refused to grow like the rest. His time will come, but not today.
When fall finally came and the greens of the landscape turned its thousand shades of brown, it came time for the harvest. In 2013, the harvest was laughable, comical, a folly. Not even the bottom of a single bucket could be covered. This year while we harvested in the torrid October rain there was a bounty, a horde, a reaping on a scale of moderate respectability. What catastrophes of spring we experienced gave way to over 10lbs of fresh fruit ready for wine making. Buckets overflowed, single vines producing enough fruit to fill a bucket on their own. This felt good, it felt like the Demetre turned to us and said “OK, you get one good year… enjoy it” and we did. Despite Napoleon’s sulking we celebrated with red solo cups of sparkling wine and repetitious conversations starting with “Remember when…”. Lastly, to get the vines ready for the winter again we buried them to the knuckle and trimmed them back. We also loosened the cabling this year hoping that less tension would make the winter more survivable. Most importantly of all though, we steeled ourselves for the journey ahead where we prayed not to the harvest but to Bacchus and whatever god controls fermentation. Wine would be made, an entire gallon in fact…. But more on that later.