What a surprising gift to have friends who own a vineyard! They have taught me about patience and perseverance as they’ve improved their ranchland over time, clearing it of cedar, terracing it for grapevines, and then the whole planting and tending activities for the last three years.
Well, it all paid off in surprising ways yesterday. You’re thinking I broke open a bottle of their wine, aren’t you? Nope. (That’ll come in October.) We visited our friends Dale and Becky at their ranch and returned home with a five-gallon bucket of newly-picked tempranillo grapes.
But as usual, most things I do come with a story, and this whole grape thing is no different since I have more of proverbial skin in this game than usual. In the spring of 2015, our friends had their first grapevine planting party, and we were there to do our part. We listened intently to the viticulturist who instructed us with precise detail about how we should plant these leafless twigs, exactly how they should be turned, at what depth to plant them, and then how to pack the soil around their roots. And we did our parts, even in the rain. They’ve had two more spring plantings since then.
Watching the vines grow and having to pinch back the first grapes when they appear required patience and a plan. If left to mature, the grapes would rob the vine of much needed nutrients to grow into a strong, grape-bearing vine. So now after three years, their vines are heavy with grapes, and the tempranillos were harvested over the weekend and sent off to the winery. That is all except a big bucket for me.
We drove an hour, had such an enjoyable visit with our friends, and returned home to wash and stem grapes for the next two hours. Now you must understand these are very small wine grapes, not the large table grapes from the grocery store, so there was no way to perform this task with expedience. Bill helped because his is usually the first spoon in the jelly jar.
And this morning, I rose to a bucket brimming with grapes that had been floating in chilled water all night in my kitchen. I filled up two of my largest pots, barely covered the grapes with water, and started the cooking process. Then after about an hour when the grape skins began to pop, I began the mashing process. And then came the straining process through a sieve and then through cheesecloth. Like I said from the beginning, there’s something about working with grapes that teaches one patience.
So now, I have juice for four recipes of the finest tempranillo jelly, but the jelly-making is for another day and another story. And if you receive a jar of this homemade goodness from me, you’ll know you’re someone on my A-list. Another thing crossed my busy mind this morning as I stirred, mashed, strained, and sweated – I will never, no never, complain about the cost of grape juice or grape jelly ever again even if it’s not nearly as good as mine.