Have you ever noticed the sign outside the winery along Woodbridge Road? It is surrounded by canas, verbena, some blubs (maybe tulips… I’m not sure) so you could miss it. It says “Heritage Oak Winery, Handcrafted Artisan Wines” and then gives the address. Before working here I probably had driven by that sign a hundred times as I turned into the winery for a wine pickup, an event, or just to come by to visit and have a quick taste of whatever was new. I didn’t really think too much about the “Handcrafted Artisan” part. I mean Arta and I knew we enjoyed Tom’s wines, knew that they are some of the best in the Lodi area and is why we are wine club members, but beyond that (….and isn’t that really enough….) I never gave it too much thought.
Working here now for the past few months, I’ve come to understand a little bit of just all that is behind those few simple words, “Handcrafted Artisan Wines.” Did you see the video Tom made and posted on Facebook on Harvest At Heritage Oak? If you haven’t seen it, check it out, it gives some insight into the whole handcrafted artisan thing. It shows clearly the hands-on approach and the care that goes into the harvest and crushing of the grapes just prior to beginning the fermentation process. Every grape that ends up in a bottle as wine is harvested by hand (not by machine), placed in small tubs (not huge hoppers), transported in the small tubs immediately to the winery (not bounced long distances in the tandem trucks we are all so used to seeing in the late summer and early fall around here) and placed into the crusher to begin the process from grape to wine. And as I have mentioned in other posts, all this starts at oh-dark-thirty during the cool morning hours. Usually each lot is picked, transported, crushed and pumped into fermenters all before noon. Tom specially designed the trailer you see in the video for the small tubs so the grapes remain in small bunches, not mashing against each other under a ton of other grapes. It is that level of care that goes into handling the grapes here at Heritage Oak.
But I have also come to understand that the “Handcrafted Artisan” goes way beyond just harvest and crush. It starts in the vineyard with an understanding of each grape variety, what it needs as it grows and what it can do as a blending wine or a stand-alone varietal. Okay, so we got that, but it also takes constant attention during the growing season to make sure the vines are getting what they need to produce the wine Tom has in mind, and knowing what adjustments to make and when. And then there is the monitoring of fermentation, the aging, the blending, the barreling — the same care is used in each step, hands-on all the way. And then…and then…I could go on and on all the way up to bottling. Which, and you know this is coming, is done with care to disturb the wine as little as possible, get it into the bottle for the final aging and then release.
So those words on the sign out front, “Handcrafted Artisan Wines”, really do mean something. Tom’s got this hands on it from start to finish. All you and I need to do is pop the cork and enjoy!
- Posted by Jim Curtis
- On March 26, 2016
- 0 Comments