My dad was cleaning out his desk in Vermont and came across a photo collage that predates the construction of the Tablas Creek winery in 1997. In the three previous years, we'd rented space at Adelaida Cellars in which we made the wines from the test vineyard we planted with American-sourced clones in 1992. This was done by us (the partnering families) and mostly by hand, which was a learning experience for me and I'm sure nearly equally for the Perrins who at this point were used to a much larger operation.
The photos are from, I think, 1996, and feature both of my parents (Robert and Barbara Haas) as well as Jean Pierre Perrin. It's a great look at the nitty gritty of the work in the cellar, done by the partners themselves before we had hired a winemaker.
It's amazing to me to think about how far we've come in less than 15 years; yesterday we hosted a vertical tasting of our Esprit de Beaucastel wines from 2000-2008 to an enthusiastic audience of fans. It really drives home how young the California wine industry is, and gives me great enthusiasm for what we'll be able to accomplish in the upcoming decades.
Decuvage (literally de-tanking) is second only to cleaning the presses in the unpleasantness of the work. Fun to see my mom hands-on!
Pump-overs are daily (usually twice-daily) rituals with fermenting tanks of red grapes. We now have catwalks with stairs welded to the tops of our tanks, but I remember well the ladders and the climbing up that we did for years before we got those catwalks. My dad is on top of the tank below.
Cleaning the press is wet, messy, and loud. Measuring densities of fermenting juice is a lot more pleasant.
The forklift attachment that lifts and dumps bins into the press was a new invention at the time. I remember having to arrange for the purchase and export of an early one into France during a stint at Beaucastel in the summer of 1995. It's still really cool.