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LA MESA -- When we last left the energetic owners of La Mesa's San Pasqual Winery, they were driving slowly away from a picturesque vineyard in Jamul with a ton or so of Petit Sirah grapes La Mesa Today had just helped pick from the vines.
On Saturday morning, just six days later, we dropped in on the Center Street winery to see what had become of our grapes.
Just by chance, there they were, in a large bin where they had spent the week mixed with yeast and generating about 90 degrees of heat as sugar levels slowly declined.
Linda McWilliams, the vintner of this operation, explained that yeasts have become a variable part of the process with new strains being developed to match with particular grape varieties, adding different influences to the wine. McWilliams admitted to being excited each year when the new yeast catalogue arrives. Vintners, it appears, are easily excited.
For those who wondered in high school why you ever took chemistry, McWilliams then demonstrated the answer. She wandered among bins of percolating crushed and de-stemmed grapes, sinking in a thermometers and then conducting tests to gauge the chemical characteristics of this fragrant mush.
When McWilliams decides the time is right, the bins will be moved to have the juice extracted and pumped into waiting wooden casks. The contents will be constantly tested, mixed, the casks cleaned and refilled, and cleaned and refilled again, she explained.
Perhaps by next spring some of these varieties will be ready for bottling, though some will wait considerably longer than that.
This part of the wine-making process is not tidy, but it is fragrant. San Pasqual could probably charge to allow visitors to sit and watch the crush and enjoy the warm, fruit-laden air while sipping last year's efforts.
But if you ever go, don't wear white. Red wine stains and it is literally in the air at San Pasqual these days!
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