Friday, April 29, 2016

Putting grapes through the crushing process (Adrianna Collins)
Five life lessons I’ve learned from making wine

Posted on May 20, 2014 at 10:18 a.m.

Adrianna Collins is the vice president of Blue Byte Technology Solutions, is the editor-in-chief of and is working on her first novel. She’s lived in Elkhart for 18 years and is one of The Elkhart Truth’s community bloggers. You can read more of her work on her blog, Just Go With It.

I grew up in the middle of wine country in Northern California, so wine is something that I grew up around. It drove the local economy, and you couldn’t go anywhere without passing at least one vineyard. Recently, my husband and I joined in with our friend, Paul Cataldo, to purchase grapes (ironically from my home town) and began the process of making our own wine. Wine making is simple, yet complicated, and an awful lot like life. Here are five things you can learn about life by making wine.

1. Your environment matters.

When you are growing grapes for wine, the smallest details of the environment around these grapes makes a world of difference to the flavor you can achieve in the final product. The temperature of the soil and the air, the chemical makeup of the soil itself, direct sunlight, cloud cover, fog, distance of the busiest roads – so many minute things determine the flavor of the grape. And just like a grape, our happiness and attitudes are a direct result of the environment around us. Good winemakers take steps to guard against pests, mold, and disease. To get the most out of our environment, we need to take steps to guard ourselves against negativity, bad influences and pests who seek to destroy. Fill your vineyard with positive people who affirm you, and take care that your choices lead you to a good path. Be intentional about where you plant yourself, and what kind of environment that is.

2. Crushing brings out good flavor!

When you crush grapes, you put them in a machine that crushes the berry and separates the stems and leaves. The stems and leaves go one way, and the precious juice and skins go another. This is an essential step in making good wine. Stems and leaves can spoil the wine, as can the amount of time you let them sit in the skins. The skins add to the flavor and color, but if kept soaking too long, can make for a wine that is bitter. We all go through things in life that crush us. Crushing is violent. It separates us from what is comfortable. But the key here is how long we sit with our mistakes. Just as the grapes sit for a few weeks with the skins, we should sit with our mistakes in order to learn from them. Some of the best life lessons can come out of the worst mistakes. But don’t sit with them too long. Don’t let it color the rest of your life. Not letting go can make you bitter. And bitter wine is not a good thing.

3. Pressing refines us.

After the grapes have sat with the skins for a few weeks, then you put them in a special oak barrel and press all the juice out. This process takes some time. It requires the winemaker to continue to add weight and pressure to release all the juices from the skins. Everyday life can press in on us. The weight and pressure of paying bills, raising children, maintaining our relationships – these are all things that press us and refine us. The sooner we relax and release our stress, the easier the pressing becomes. But if you don’t press your wine thoroughly, you could waste some of the wine. And wasting wine is a bad thing! So when the weight of the world seems to be pressing on you, just remember: That’s more fine wine that is being released.

4. Age is a very good thing!

Our wine we pressed last October is now sitting in our basement simply aging. It’s fermenting and in the process of changing from juice to wine. This is the easiest and yet the hardest step. It requires a lot of patience not to drink the wine before it is ready. Although we need to bottle the wine before next October, it probably won’t be ready to drink for another year. So we will let it sit in the bottle until maximum flavor is reached. In our youth oriented culture and instant gratification society, it is good to know that there are still things you can’t rush. And the older I get, the better I am. I’m a darn good vintage!

5. Life is meant to be enjoyed!

I’ve drank some really good wine, but the best has always come from a winemaker who took great care in all the steps. Wine this good is meant to be sipped and savored. Life is meant to be sipped and savored. Enjoy the sunny days spent by the water, the holidays full of loved ones, conversations with good friends. Savor it all as if it were the finest of wines. Because even in the crushing and pressing, great things come out of a life well lived! At least, that’s what I’ve learned.


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