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Kathleen Inman
September 19, 2009 | Kathleen Inman

I Never Wanted to Join the Circus

Although some kids grow up wanting to run away and join the circus, I was not one of them. However, in the last 4 weeks since harvest began for Inman Family Wines, I have felt like the Ringmaster in a three ring circus that I wanted to run away from!

In many ways, harvest is one of my favorite times of year. I love tasting the fruit on the vine, grooming it in preparation for picking and then enjoying the wonderful smells of the fermenting must in the winery. The 2009 vintage has been very surprising. Severe drought, a devastating frost the year before and a cool spring had me thinking harvest would be later this year. I didn’t think I would begin harvesting until after Labor Day, but even in the absence of warm weather this spring, the vineyard seemed to catch up to ripeness levels on a parity with previous years at the same date.

I brought in the first fruit for our Endless Crush Sparkling wine on August 24th. The following Monday, August 31st, I brought in 12 Tons of OGV Pinot Noir for our estate Pinot and 3T of OGV Pinot Gris. The following week had me going back and forth from our vineyard, where the building project for the new winery continues with major earthworks and two-thirds of the vineyard was yet to be harvested, to the winery to check on the Pinot Gris, bubbling away in stainless steel barrels and the cold soaking Pinot Noir in chilled fermenters, and up to the sparkling custom crush facility in Hopland. Good thing I drive a Prius.

The following week, Kevin Burton, began work as our new Director of Sales and Hospitality, it was our 25th wedding anniversary, we harvested fruit from Ted Klopp’s Thorn Ridge Ranch on the 3rd of September, the following day more fruit from OGV and at the weekend, it was the Sonoma County Wine Country event at Mac Murray ranch, where I was pouring and a speaker on the Rosé panel. By this time I had fermentations at so many different stages and in two locations as well as 4 more picks to call.
The last two weeks have been more wine events (The 2006 OGV Pinot Noir actually won a medal at the Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival on September 13th) and the completion of the first few fermentations. The circus that is Inman Family Wines reached its most chaotic point this week when I bottled 1449 cases of 2008 Pinot Noir, pressed off three fermenters of 2009, dealt with septic system contractor for the winery and organized 2 chardonnay picks…all on the same day. Yesterday was spent barreling down the 2009 Pinot Lots, harvesting and then pressing the two Chardonnay vineyards. Of course the Bucher press which could handle the two lots of whole clusters at the same time went down that morning, so then I had to use a smaller press and do the two lots separately. By this time the temperatures were reaching the high 90’s and with no canopy over the press area, this was hot work. Dry ice was keeping the chardonnay cool, but I was getting a sunburn! Part way through pressing the second lot of Chardonnay, the pump broke. Just my luck! At this point thoughts of running away began to enter my head…exhaustion, heat stroke or a was it a moment of sanity?

This morning I put the blend together for the base wine for the Endless Crush Sparkling, and on Monday I will pick the last Pinot Noir from OGV. Harvest will be over, and in another two weeks all the wines should be tucked up in barrel. As things stand now, this looks to be a stellar vintage for Inman Family. The Pinot Noir wines from OGV are delicate and the alcohols are all below 13%. The Pinot Gris and Chardonnays are lean and steely and are looking very promising. However, I am resolved to cease being a Ringmaster; I have made a note to myself to NEVER bottle during harvest and to learn to say no to wine events in September.


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