Cab Franc

September 28, 2007

I think that Cab Franc can be every bit as interesting and powerful as Cab Sauv, it just requires a little better foreknowledge of the terroir in which its being planted.

I woke up and the sky was dark. I was at work as the sky started to lighten. We were picking Cab Franc up in the Mayacamas and the moon, as full as it could be, slowly fell behind the hills.

We were still picking as the sun peaked over on the other side. If you can get away from the tractor and the yelling, you can hear the birds wake up and start to sing, but at work, sticky and sweaty, all you hear is:

“Bandeja Bandeja,” and “Aguas ! Aguas!” and “No pinche hojas senores!” and a few gay jokes thrown in. El macho burro apparently really likes big vergotes, big black ones, like this big, greased up. big. It gets so old it’s funny.

up on top, where it’s maybe 5 degrees warmer at night, the fruit was uniformly dimpled, the pulp brown, and the flavors intense. Sweet and with still enough of an acid bite to awaken my heartburn.

Around 9:00 the guys are yelling something different and yelling and I get bitten by a wasp and then another one. They’re everywhere, biting. I yell to forget that section of grapes and run and we do, leaving the grapes for the wasps and swatting the wasps off of each other and laughing in pain. I dash off on my ATV for advils and antihistamines and by the time I”m back, they’re done with the top section, ready for a quick break, and ready to start below.

If they’d have asked me, I could have told them the block of cab franc down a few hundred feet below, wasn’t as ripe. I told them we were moving down and they gave the thumbs up, but they hadn’t checked out the fruit. We started to pick and the first trailer went down. The fruit was sweet but the flavors undeveloped. Some of the berries showed red below the skin, and there were more shot, green berries. Also, absolutely no dimples. By the time the second was full I got a frantic call to stop picking. Then to fill the trailers that we had. The tank could only hold so much, and the fruit was, well, wait there dude, i want to check it out.

4 hours of picking and we’re done. We’ll wait until monday, let’s see what the weather might bring.

I rushed off to sample some more vineyards, huffing up and down rocky slopes to bring them to the lab and process them before my boss had a meeting with a winemaker. The numbers were weird and I checked and rechecked the pHs, but they stayed low. It’s weird. This year in a few places, and maybe its the sampling and maybe its the equipment, the acidity has risen as the sugars have risen. That doesn’t happen. It isn’t done.


I phoned in the numbers and organized. I have to get my vine mealybug traps in by tomorrow and so I drove up to Lovall valley and swapped some out. By then, and hour later, I get a call from the winemaker, asking how I got the pHs, if I know how to use a pH machine, his voice full of doubt.

I wasn’t surprised. Just tired and sticky. I had some more work to do. I showered and cleaned and drank beer.

I’ve got poison oak below the belt line, a bad tan line, and this daily grape juice and dirt facial mask isn’t doing wonders for my post-pubescent acne. I’ve got 5 wasp bites, a week-old beard, and thistle-thorn scars on my ass. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing.


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