Picking How long does it take to harvest 500 pounds of Syrah? Only a couple of hours for Team Wine, who cut bunches of sweet, seedy grapes in a remote Thomas Fogarty Winery vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Crushing In a parking lot at Sunset, we pulverized the grapes in a borrowed crusher-destemmer ― like a large funnel with a rotating screw in the middle. We also used our bare feet, I Love Lucy–style. Stomping grapes is a lot harder than it looks, like huffing up a stair climber set in quicksand. Especially if you're laughing.
Punching Down We stirred our burbling, fermenting cauldrons (okay, clean trash cans) of crushed grapes, juice, and wine yeast with a big wooden paddle, submerging the thick cap of skins to keep them moist and sending color and flavor into the juice. We measured the sugar daily to make sure the yeast was gobbling it up and converting it into alcohol, putting our high school chemistry to use.
Pressing When sugar levels dropped to zero, primary fermentation was finished ― we'd made wine! It was time to clean it up with a press, which looked like wood fencing wrapped around a Christmas tree stand. We dumped in our wine and inflated a rubber bladder in the middle, squishing the wine through the wood slats. We ran a bucket brigade to catch wine pouring from the spigot, then carefully splashed it into glass jugs called carboys.
Oaking The easiest and cheapest way to give a wine oak character isn't a barrel but oak chips. We tossed a small handful of toasted chips into each 5-gal. carboy.