Losing one’s family obliges us to search, replace our family (a quote from Finding Forester). Not always with blood but maybe in the form of a friend. In my case I never really lost my family since it remains intact on the East Coast. Yes, a big Sicilian family starting with my mother who’s 86, her two surviving sisters, 96 and 100. I have three brothers, one sister, four children and as many cousins as one cares to count. However I’m the only flock member that flew the coup. With every choice we make comes rewards and sacrifice and I was no different. By leaving I’ve missed so much, in the way of birthdays, graduations, births and more. I have cousins I’ve never met and would not know if they stood right next to me. But on the other side I have seen so many things from travel and residing in a completely different place than I was brought up. Yes, the ups and downs of life. Given the chance I would do it the same way.
I have replaced my first family with my second. That of my children and Jana my wife who should be given a medal for putting up with me for so long. I also have replaced my family with friends that act just as close. Blood is thick but can be manufactured with the same viscosity if you find the right people. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be a wine blog! You see, choices when making a fine wine have the same consequences as your choices in life. Let’s explore that a little, shall we?
Let’s say you’re the winemaker. In order to make my point I’m asking you, as my reading audience, to get into the role. Sit back, get a cup of coffee, and pretend you’re about to make a wine. Let’s say all the equipment is there and you have a building equipped with anything a winemaker could want. Are you with me? Now what’s your first step? I’ll help a little. Forget the usual things like a business plan. This is not an exercise thrown on you by a college professor. So your first decisions are vineyard based. Projecting the crop yield, will you be dropping fruit and how often? Will you be pulling laterals, opening the canopy for sun, keeping the fruit zone shaded, targeting one cluster per shoot, two cluster per shot or more? Spraying, cover crop, hedge trimming and the list goes on. The point here is you have many choices. Now after all of that you must decide when you will harvest, at what Brix, Ph, acids, whole cluster or completely destemed? You need to be mindful of the weather, heat, cold, rain, wind, frost. After computing all the data you make a decision to harvest. Then you’re faced with a whole new set of decisions. Someone once told me it’s easy after your fruit is in, you just do what you always do. Oh Really? Your best laid plans for the harvest can go up in smoke if the fruit is not what you expected. And it never is! Sometimes better, but many times worse.
You have moved to the winery where you must decide things like, do I sulfur the fruit to keep it fresh and ward off V/A before primary fermentation? Do I destem or not? Do I use cultivated yeast or let it go native? Do I add yeast food, nitrogen, acid, enzymes, water? After your wine is dry are you using New Oak, and if so what percentage, where from the forest, the cooperage house. Are you stainless fermenting the Chardonnay, or barrel fermenting? Are you cold settling, or right to barrel? The choices go on as they do in life. After all this, it’s about how hard to press, how long in barrel. But my point has been made. Your choices are endless.
What this is really about, however, comes down to this. With each choice you make there is an outcome and what could have been. Yes, after making the decision you did you say to yourself, was it worth it? But the path you took can’t be changed. If you went another route you may have had something different, more satisfying. You may have known all of your first, second, third cousins by name. But on the other hand, you would not know your own children because they would not be or at very least, they would be different. It’s enough to make you drink so that’s what I’m doing as I write this. Life and wine, the same and different.
You can’t allow yourself the what ifs in life. You can always improve, try to become a better person, less faulty than we all are. But to ponder on the what ifs will make you nuts and I’m a testament to that. So make the best decisions you can and once you do, live with it and live it to the fullest of potential. If it makes you feel any better, there may be a you in an alternate universe making an opposite decision and he or she is wondering what if they made the choice you have? Wow, maybe I should not drink while typing!