Cellar Rat: Week Nine at Unti Vineyards


By Ella Lawrence

Now that harvest is winding down, we've got a lot more spare time on our hands. There is no more treading for me to do, I've shoveled my last big tank, and we've long since put away the crusher-destemmer. It seems like everything I do in the cellar is somehow the last of its kind, and the dwindling amount of work corresponds nicely with the dwindling summer.

Daylight Savings Time has come to an end, so every evening we see the sun set over the Dry Creek Valley, a sight I never get tired of. Just after the sun goes down, the hills that divide the Dry Creek from the Russian River valleys are starkly outlined against the pale blue, about-to-be pitch-dark sky. Pine trees make the rolling hills jaggedly black, and one or two bright stars always come out first.

It's really starting to look like fall now, something you don't notice when living in San Francisco. The city never really gets to appreciate the changing of the trees; all the fog keeps foliage lush and green. In Healdsburg, however, entire hillsides change from green to gold to red to bare, only revealing themselves to be vineyards and not swaths of fiery watercolor upon closer inspection.

To pass the time in the cellar, we've devised what Mick calls the "Waiting for the Press Olympics." It started on Wednesday, November 5, which may go down as one of the greatest days in history. Sebastien and I showed up a little after 9 a.m. and immediately started jumping up and down and screaming, "WOO HOO!" Our ear-to-ear grins didn't leave our faces all day, and we had NPR blaring through the winery's speakers just so we could hear the newscasters say, "President-Elect Obama" over and over again, screaming in joy every time we did.

As I was draining our last big tank before we pressed the pomice (the grape skins, seeds, and stems that have been macerating with the juice as it ferments into wine), I knocked the big cover off the top of the tank. The cloth popped off of the PVC circle that holds it around the tank's rim, and Sebastien grabbed it and started hula-hooping.


Who knew that Unti's winemaker had such mad secret hoopin' skills? He was much better than me and gave me several tips until I was able to keep the hoop going around my waist for several minutes at a time.

So far, "hoopin' for Obama" is the only event we've got entered into the "Waiting for the Press Olympics," but honestly—what else do we really need?

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