Warm days, chilly nights, and the turning color of vineyards from deep green to oranges and yellow – all signs of the arrival of autumn in the valley. There is an exciting energy that comes with this time of year – grapes are ripened and ready to be turned into wine. Harvest is full-swing here in the Santa Ynez Valley. Jessy and I have been spending a few mornings each week helping a friend of ours at her winery. Each day is full – there are grapes being picked, crushed, soaked, pressed and put in barrel. It’s messy, delicious work; just last week I went home from a few hours covered in Pinot juice.

I think it’s the magic of wine that I fell in love with. Watching winemaking up close I see that it is a labor of love – around here many wineries are built on very hard work, dedication to the craft, and an intense love of the power of wine. A bottle of wine can bring people together in conversation and community. A glass of wine can create a moment of peace, reflection, and connection to the earth in a unique way. Wine can turn a gathering into a celebration and a quiet moment into something to savor. I have seen the handcrafting of wine – winemakers who choose their fruit, taste the grapes and carefully watch until deciding which is just the right moment to pick it off the vine. Then comes the sorting of grapes, cared for like something precious. Just the other day I watched my dear friend, Sonja, stomping her grapes, (actually it was more like dancing on her grapes) and the act was a celebration in itself. This is followed by the thrill of watching those grapes pressed and flowing for the first time. The wine is put into barrel and what happens between that moment and the time those barrels are put into bottles and the bottle is first opened to pour a glass is pure magic. It’s nature taking its course and it’s the hard work, decision-making and pure love of the winemaker. It’s a partnership between nature and the hand of a wine lover. It’s a kind of romance.

Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to Wine” sings of this love for wine. What better time than now to sit, pour yourself a glass, and savor the words of the poem’s last stanza:

But you are more than love,
the fiery kiss,
the heat of fire,
more than the wine of life;
you are
the community of man,
chorus of discipline,
abundance of flowers.
I like on the table,
when we’re speaking,
the light of a bottle
of intelligent wine.
Drink it,
and remember in every
drop of gold,
in every topaz glass,
in every purple ladle,
that autumn labored
to fill the vessel with wine;
and in the ritual of his office,
let the simple man remember
to think of the soil and of his duty,
to propagate the canticle of the wine.