South African Adventure – Journey’s End Vineyards

For four weeks, I am here in South Africa learning all I can about the ins and outs of winemaking, daily chores in the cellar and picking fruit in the vineyards. You never know what will happen in the cellar on any given day or what surprises may await you!

After moving free run Chardonnay into the tank, press wine went into a different tank. After 7 presses and four different tanks, the press wine has been combined into one and we are now ready to start fermentation on the free run juice. The juice looks amazing. And it can only be amazing with good quality grapes, and the Chardonnay grapes this year are beautiful. All of this makes winemaker Mike Dawson very happy and he’s predicting the wine from vintage 2018 will be even better than vintage 2017. You add enzyme and the least amount of sulphur to ‘help’ the grapes along. Some of this was my job.

This winemaking can be a precarious business. Inoculation can occur in the wrong tanks, wine can be moved wrongly from one tank to another, readings can be misinterpreted, wrong amounts of enzyme or sulphur can be mixed…oi, the possibilities are endless for errors. So, in the end, when the winemaker asks me to do something, I am triple checking to ensure it’s done right! Far be it from me to ruin 3 or 5 or 10,000 L of wine! I certainly don’t want to be responsible for that!

There are also hoses, pump machines, a destemming machine, grape conveyor belt and countless water tubs all over the cellar for which you need to be careful you don’t trip over! I have a large bump on my leg to prove it! All this to say, this is only the introduction to Journey’s End. Next week, the Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc will be picked – another new experience! After racking, the lees draining from the bottom of the tank.

So after another two weeks here in South Africa, I’ve been able to experience so much more at the cellar, both the good and the bad. Being able to take daily ballings (in short, taking sugar and temperature readings to ensure fermentation is indeed happening)has been nothing short of ‘super cool’. To see the yeast doing its job, along with a few nutrients; the fermentation bubbling inside the barrel, to smell the CO2 and cough when I can’t seem to get the siphon to work…it’s all part of the experience that I have had here that will rival no other. I love that the winemaker has enough trust in me to do this for him.

And just this past week, I tasted the lineup of Journey’s End wines that the winery makes, only to be thrilled, pleasantly surprised, and truthfully, for a very few, disappointed. I took it very seriously, imparting my WSET tasting skill set to taste and write some serious notes.

I have one week left to learn all I can, and (hopefully) get in on some RED wine harvest! It’s totally different and I want to be a part of it! White grapes are one thing, but red grapes? I want to do pump overs, i want to see skin contact, and I want to go home with hands that are so red and stained that people think I have a disease. I have loved being here at Journey’s End, truly a gift to learn from everyone and to have (hopefully) made lifelong friendships in the process. I look forward to when I can return again, this time for longer perhaps, and even bring my husband or the rest of the family! Gesondheid!

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