We've picked all our grapes, and our olives. The stone fruits like peaches, nectarines and plums are long past. The vineyard is largely dormant after several frosty nights last week, and the cover crop sprouting. But there is one type of fruit tree that still had fruit hanging: our quinces. A quince, if you haven't had one, looks like an oversized, lumpy lemon, but tastes like a tart, crunchy apple. In texture, it's harder and less juicy than an apple. Quinces are a part of the same family as apples and pears, and have some resemblances to each, but they are honestly not great eating solo, so are typically used in one of two ways. You can juice them, and either enjoy the taste -- like freshly pressed cider, but zestier -- or ferment it into a sparkling cider. Or you can cook them down into paste or jelly, at which point it's a great accompaniment to cheeses.
Both of these seem like good ideas to us, so we'll try splitting our production between the two uses.
Of course, we only have two trees, so we're not talking about industrial quantities here. Cellar Master Craig Hamm brought in the hand-cranked press that his family used to make homemade apple cider, and he and Gustavo Prieto spent a good chunk of the morning grinding up the pieces of quince by hand:
Looking down into the mouth of the grinder produced a cool image, like spun gold. You can see the pieces of quince at the bottom, being slowly ground up:
Because of the woody texture of the quinces, all this was a lot of work. But the results -- once Gustavo has cooked down the quince mash, and once Craig and the cellar team have fermented the roughly 5 gallons of juice -- will hopefully be worth the effort.
By the way, if you're wondering what we're doing growing two quince trees, they are a part of our biodynamic program. We've spent the last several years building as much diversity as we can into the vineyard. Viticulturist Levi Glenn, who oversees the program, wrote a super introduction a few years back: Animal Farm: The Benefits of Biodiversity in the Vineyard.
As for the quinces, stay tuned!