I ate a lot of grapes yesterday. After an afternoon of picking, and popping one from every couple of bunches, I slightly regretted having indulged so much. But they were too tasty to resist. I spent my first afternoon at Green Fire Farm amongst the picturesque rows of lovely Gewurztraminer grapes. Though their name is a mouthful, their taste is light and delicate like their pale purple color. Picking them was the first step in their transformation to a delicious white wine.
The journey to get to the farm took me two flights and about an hour’s drive. I transferred through San Francisco. With a short layover, I at least felt the city’s presence by passing a few Ghirardelli chocolate stands in the airport. Soon I hopped on a shorter flight up to the Arcata/ Eureka Airport. From my window seat I caught the magnificent red of the Golden Gate Bridge that shone through from beneath a shroud of fog on both ends. After the short flight up along the coast, our plane touched down between the ocean and hills of deep green coniferous forests.
Green Fire Farm is about an hour inland from the coast in the town of Hoopa. Every direction offers a striking view of hills of pine (or are they mountains?). Either way, it’s an impressive setting for the five acres of vegetables, herbs, and fruit produced on the farm.
With so many vegetables to harvest for the markets and wholesale accounts, the grapes had to wait until the afternoon to be picked. But they needed to be taken from the vine now since there is a threat of frost. So with clippers and buckets we made our way down the rows, our hands becoming wet and sticky from the escaping juice. Four of us took a few hours to harvest a total of 400 pounds.
The pale purple beauties then were poured in one machine that took off the stems (and somehow is smart enough to shoot the stem out the opposite side from the grapes and juice.) The grapes were then crushed even more in an old- fashioned barrel press from the late 1800s. Since this will be a white wine, the juice had to be completely separated from the skins when being fermented, unlike red wine. Ultimately twenty-five gallons of grape juice pressed out—and will ferment for a year before it will be transformed into the slightly sparkly final product. Of course, as a perfect way to finish off the day of hard work we sampled a Gewurztraminer from the previous year. It’s definitely worth the work.