Monday, March 8, 2010

Update and Death March to Kanonkop

Busy busy busy. Harvesting has been going strong for the last week or so. Every grape varietal seemed to become ripe for the picking at the same time, so we've been trying to get them off the vine and sorted as quickly as possible. This has meant harvesting for pretty much every day except Sundays for the past couple of weeks. Today we are finishing up the shiraz, tomorrow we'll finish up the mourvedre and that will be all for harvest! At this point I'm pretty excited to be done with it -- I could use a while of not having to wake up at 4 or 5 a.m. every day.

Was able to spend the day with Cousin Cy and Alli on Friday, which was very nice. After a few days in Camps Bay, they came out and stayed at a bed and breakfast in Stellenbosch. They came and met me for a late breakfast on Friday after I'd been sorting grapes all morning. Then I gave them a tour of the cellar and the farm, before we came back and I put them to work! They sorted grapes for an hour or two, switching back and forth between the two tables and getting nice and sticky. They have real potential as grape sorters -- with minimal instruction they quickly became among the top grape sorters on the tables. Overachievers. Then we did a quick tasting of all the Noble Hill wines, they bought some wine and some olive oil, then we went for a run around the farm and up the big hill to Kris' new house (which now has rafters and looks almost house-like). Cy and I took a quick swim in the upper dam, and I had to take off to go with Kris to a wine tasting event and the University of Cape Town. Unsurprisingly, the UCT wine club drank a lot of wine. Cy and Alli fly back to London today -- it seemed like they had a nice time.

While harvest happened this past Saturday, we also hosted a wedding here. The groom's family is Dutch, the bride's family is South African, and the bride and groom live in London. Everything went off without too many mishaps. I tended the bar for pretty much the whole time, which wasn't too bad. Still, I was on my feet from about 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., which was tiring.

On the winemaking front, we now have two of the three tanks filled. The cabernet has been in the tank for a while, and is now almost entirely dry (the sugars have fermented). Its balling is at -1.4 right now. A 300 liter oak barrel has arrived for the cab, so we'll get that wine out of the tank and into the barrel in the next couple of days. Then it will sit in the barrel for a while -- something like 12-18 months. The shiraz just went into the tank on Friday. The grapes looked nice while we were harvesting it, the juice tastes good, and the color looks bright and fresh right now. We did our first pumpover for the shiraz today, and that will go on for a while. Should get the mourvedre in the tank tomorrow and we'll be doing pumpovers and punchdowns on that as well.

Yesterday (Sunday) Kris and I had the day off (not the whole weekend due to the wedding). I had hopes of going up to Langebaan to kitesurf, but reported that there was no wind up there. Hopefully I can get there in the near future now that harvest is finishing up -- it's been too long since I've made any progress on that front. We went to Olivello for lunch (delicious buffet) to form a plan B, and decided that even though the temperature was in the 90s, we would hike up Kanonkop, the mountain right behind the farm. Here's a picture taken about 20 minutes into the hike:

"Death March!" was our rallying cry. We decided to bring Kuba and Coco the dogs along with us, along with a ton of water. We filled up every empty water bottle we could find until we had a backpack full of water for us and the dogs. Though normally roughly a three hour hike, it ended up taking significantly longer because of Kuba the dog. He realized pretty quickly that our intention was to continue to head uphill, and refused to keep up with us. Instead, he plodded along well behind us until we turned a corner and were out of sight ahead of him. Then, fearing being left behind by the pack, he would begrudgingly jog to catch up. Rinse and repeat.


We finally made it up to the top, and were treated to a great view. We saw a nice view of the winelands and where we had just come from, and also saw the other side of the mountain, which has a great view of the layout of Cape Town and the suburbs. It was clear enough to see all the way to Cape Point, all of Table Mountain, and the whole surrounding area. Sadly, because the hike up took so much longer than expected, we didn't get much time to enjoy the view and had to start our descent to make it back before it got too dark.

Here are a couple of pictures from the top. Coco (pictured) made it all the way up, but we had to leave Kuba for the final ascent.

The descent seemed to be going more quickly because Kuba appeared happy to head downhill. He is big enough that his momentum would just carry him down, and the most energy he had to put out was to stop himself. But, when we were about 4/5 of the way down, I looked back and Kuba had stopped completely. He laid himself on the ground in the middle of a path and wouldn't budge. We went back and forth between being annoyed with him for being so lazy, and worried about whether we'd asked too much of him to go on such a long hike in the hot weather (though only the beginning part was hot -- it cooled off quite a bit as the day got later and our altitude went up). Were we going to have terrible regrets about calling the hike a Death March? All four of us had been drinking tons of water, but we hand fed him three liters of water. Still, he refused to get up -- even when we physically picked him up, he would actively dive his head back towards the ground (ironically spending more energy than it would have taken him to just stand up).

Kuba being super lazy:

Finally, after an hour, when it was nearly pitch black, we wondered if maybe our ascent strategy of just walking ahead of him to make him fear losing the pack would get him moving. Success! He got up on his own and trotted to keep up with us as we walked back down in the dark. He got the full pampering treatment when he got back -- Kathleen draped wet towels on him -- and the adventure was over. Reports are that both dogs are extremely lethargic and appear to be really sore. Lazy pups.

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