I ran my hands over the green-gold and pale violet grape clusters and sang them a song to encourage growth…

This glowing blue, marble-sized fruit…cleansing, detoxifying, restorative…

Pressing my first Pinot Noir grapes for juice turned out to be a bittersweet experience. Yet the taste of heaven in a glass is superb and well worth the seasons. Sporting a larger than life bouquet of blackberries, with aromas of both the tiny white blossoms on long thorny stems and the tantalizing berries clustered just out of reach, my juice quickly invigorates the palate.

My son and daughter-in-law, who gave me the vineyard as a Christmas gift, and I were fascinated with the whole experience. On our first visit to the vineyard on a stormy day in March, we carefully stepped around generous rain puddles down a driveway lined with young olive trees. The resident caretaker gave us a quick lesson in pruning and we all took turns. I related that this was a gift from my son and his wife and she said in surprise,

‘How can you look so young?’
I quickly replied, ‘I don’t drink’
then at her astonishment followed with,
‘besides I’m too young to drink’ and everyone laughed.

We took the best-looking twigs home with us to make decorative table effects.

In July on my way from Corte Madera to Saint Helena, I stopped by to see my vines and adorn them with custom ribbons written with my chosen name ~ ‘Pressing Forward Vineyard’ In the dusty searing summer afternoon, I ran my hands over the green-gold and pale violet grape clusters which looked decidedly thirsty and sang them a song to encourage growth. My philosophy of care, cultivate and reap becoming a reality. A shimmering wave of dry crackling sunlight immersed the rows of southern facing vines. I shared some snaps with Joshua and Jillian so they could see the progress.

On a balmy Saturday evening in mid-September they harvested the grapes, bringing the dusty jewels to me in a white bucket. Sunday afternoon I cleaned them in a cool bath and listened as they sang with relief. After hanging in the vineyard valiantly for months during our eternal summer heat, they felt nurtured by my loving gesture.

Up at a friends’ home early Monday morning, we crushed our harvest in a container with a 24000 lb pressing mechanism operated with a handheld lever. It felt so satisfying to get my hands in the bucket plucking all the grapes with ease and care, doing this with a sense of connection to the vine and its birthing process.

The juice poured into a steel pot on a quiet hill above Saint Helena. Dipping a small cup under the minky violet stream, I sipped a mouthful. The flavours came on strong and sweet. The fresh full-bodied juice a revelation of blackberry beauty, months of southern exposure and the rough and rugged textures of the hills. Terroir reigns supreme in this place. Sun, soil and geography informs every taste, every local dish, every scent in nature walks. I longed to take the spent twigs with me to smell at home.

Gleaning about 7 containers of my pinot noir juice, we saved 5 for the freezer for a future celebration and 2 ready for us to savour.

With senses saturated, my memory brightened with the orchards of olive trees woven with vines in the hills above Siena, Italy where I’ve spent summers. As a silk colourist, I became absolutely entranced with the glowing blue of the marble sized fruit. An intense sophisticated mix of gorgeous Egyptian blue and gentian, a certain tone of English country flowers comes closest to describing their rich colour.

After the sunlit spark of blackberries comes a hint of thinly spread chestnut honey and a rich, redolent high elevation pine, a delicious mix ~ a bit temperamental and mysterious, like a lady slowly revealed in layers of cerise silk and emerald velvet. Altogether even with the bittersweet finish, I enjoyed my vineyard season very much and look forward to caring for more vines in the future.

My freshly pressed grape juice offers all the sum and substance of a purely refined drink ~ cleansing, detoxifying, restorative, giving youthful glowing effects ~ without the fermented acidic headache of waking up next day wondering what mischief you did.

My juice certainly makes me feel younger, more alive and eternally thankful for the bittersweet ritual of pressing forward in life amidst my year-long challenge.