Sunday, August 22, 2010

One Romance (25)

With Gewurztraminer happily in the tank, and with the quiet at the tasting room between Labor Day and Columbus Day, when all hell breaks loose in the Finger Lakes, Nick figured it was a good time for that trip to Northeast, Pennsylvania, on the shore of Lake Erie. Based on past sales records, he chose the best day of the week to close the tasting room and make that drive.

Soon, harvest would be in frantic swing, and he would need a second transfer pump. His new Zambelli reversible pump served him well on his first juice run, but he was aware that equipment like that needs to be backed up, as they seem to come with an internal mechanism timed to breakdown at the most inopportune moments. He also decided that it was time to get himself a filter pump and some filters to have for the coming months—wouldn’t hurt either to bundle up on a few other wine-making items.

Nick liked Doug, who operated a winery supply business specifically set up for home winemakers and for tiny wineries—he also had his own tiny winery to tend to, plus many acres of grapevines along the shores of Erie.

The other reason Nick liked going to Northeast was the necessary three-hour drive along Route 17, once voted the most scenic road in New York (or was it in the whole country?). It’s a string of rolling hills, pastures, small lakes and streams, large silos, fields of grain, and at the close of the trip, grapevines. The trip takes you past some of the oldest settled land in the country, and some of the most active during the American Revolutionary War; you drive by the famed Chautauqua Institute, where intellectual pursuit joins artistic display; and you witness some of the most scenic waterways and secondary roads on the other side of a highway railing.

On his first trip to Northeast, to buy tanks, barrels, and sundry items, Nick stopped in Salamanca to grab something to eat and to fill his tank with gas. It was the first time in his life that he had ventured onto a Native American reservation, and it wasn’t until he saw the price of goods and gasoline when he realized where he was, as excise taxes are not levied on reservations, which remain separate nations of a sort.

The city of Salamanca is on the Alleghany Indian Reservation, which the Seneca Nation leases to New York State—until 2030 (who knows?). The same rules that keep excise taxes at bay also allow reservations to host gambling casinos: Salamanca would ultimately have its revenge on the white man when it, too, would profit from the weaknesses of gambling. For the time being, however, the area looked relatively viable but not overwhelmingly prosperous, and while many people looked Native American, with their colorful faces, vaguely Asian cheek and jaw structure, and jet-black hair, he saw many other non-native faces. There seemed to be more drinking establishments per square yard than in his neighborhood at Keuka Lake, but then, that might be true for any place on earth when compared to Keuka Lake. The price of wine at retail was also much less in Salamanca than anywhere other than his industry member discount.

On this second trip to Northeast, Nick left home at 6 a.m. so that he could arrive at his destination early enough to get business done and get back home before sunset. He filled his gas tank and chose not to stop along the way, but he drove relatively breezily so that he could take in the striking New York scenery.

When he arrived in Lucille Ball’s hometown, Jamestown, he was under an hour away from his destination, and it wasn’t 9 a.m yet.

Entering Northeast reminded him of childhood summers. He knew that Lake Erie is not an ocean, but its massive shoreline and wet horizon certainly gave it that appearance, especially when humidity was high and from a distance you could see the wet air hovering over the water’s waves, calling up a particular childhood memory as he and friends descended upon the Bay 14 beachfront at Coney Island in Brooklyn.

As he came closer to the shoreline, he could smell the breakfast grill at a certain diner on the corner of town just before the east/west shore road along the lake begins. They produced a fine breakfast of eggs to order and home fries, and they offered decent coffee, too, which is no guarantee on the road. He was to meet Doug at the winery at 10:30, so there was plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast.

Not known to Nick, that morning Doug had been called away by his vineyard manager to take care of one of the daily emergencies that take place during harvest season. When Nick arrived at Doug’s place, on time, he was made to wait, which he could do either outside or in the tasting room.

Doug’s tasting room and retail space was small. Nick perused it for ideas that he might use to make his space more efficient. At the tasting bar, cheese accompanied the wines to taste. After watching a couple of transactions, Nick saw how serving the right cheese with each wine boosted how much consumers liked the wine; it was a lesson he was sure to take home with him.

When Doug finally arrived, time had been running out and so the two made a fast walk through the warehouse to look at inventory and through the winery to see how Doug put to use some of the equipment that he thought Nick might want to consider. But for this trip, only the backup transfer pump, a filter pump system and filters and other supplies were all that Nick was prepared to buy, although he did have his eye on the bottling system that Doug assured him would be there in the spring when he would need it and also the Yugoslavian oak barrels that Doug used instead of the more expensive French barrels, but that would also have to wait for another time.

He settled on a transfer pump that was cheaper than the Zambelli he already had; this one was not reversible, but it was for backup and for certain racking jobs so he was comfortable getting it. For the filter system, he wasn’t going to produce enough wine in the first year or two to invest in a plate filtering system, so he bought a small cartridge system. Doug had assured him that the new technology of the time provided cartridge filtration to a nominal .2 micron, which was pretty tight.

The system was simply a small pump with a truly slow rate, and a stainless steel cartridge holder. Plastic tubing connected to the tank being emptied of wine to be filtered into the cartridge holder on one side and then a plastic tube coming out of the cartridge holder on the other side and into the tank that would receive the filtered wine. He bought a number of rough filter cartridges, 1 micron, a few .45 micron  cartridges, and a smaller number of .2 nominal cartridges for the final filtration before bottling.

He packed a large box with various wine-making chemicals and supplies plus some cheese and bread that he bought from Doug to eat on the drive home, and a few bottles of wine that Doug gave to him to sample.

He was home by 5 pm, enough time to unwind for the following day, which would prove to be an active one.

If you are reading this entry anywhere other than on the vinofictions blog, be aware that it has been lifted without my permission (and without recompense), and that’s a copyright infringement, no matter that the copyright information appears with it.
Copyright Thomas Pellechia
August 2010. All rights reserved.

4 comments:

Marcia Macomber said...

How refreshing to go on a NY road trip with Nick. Most entertaining.

I was just at a friend's bottling party where they were giving their new (but very used) equipment a virgin run. From the looks of things (winemaker #1 was heavily doused in red squirts from top to bottom) it was going to be a tough afternoon. Pleasantly, however, I managed to figure out how to bottle their Syrah using a partially broken wand tap thingy (its technical name!) w/o dousing myself. (No, I didn't wear white to the party!)

Nick's observation of the accompaniment of cheese to aid in wine sales amused me. I have yet to understand why so many tasting rooms here in Wine Central do not a) offer nominal cheese samples for the same reason, and b) decant their offerings for a better customer tasting experience. (Sigh.) (I'm told it's not practical!) Is it more practical not to make the sales at all?

Word verif: squaki (yes, I am today!)

Thomas said...

Marcia,

Whenever I meet resistance, I follow the money: it costs money to give away cheese!!!

Vinogirl said...

Great scenic descriptions, makes me want to visit.
0.2 microns...is Nick not afraid of stripping out some fruitiness?

Thomas said...

Vinogirl,

New York State is an attractive one, and we pay dearly for it in taxes.

Re, .2 micron: that's nominal, which isn't necessarily exactly the result. Even still, in my experience over here, tight filtration makes an imperceptible impact on the high level of fruitiness and aromatics in our cool climate wines.