Vine + Winemaker + Time = Wine, right? Maybe in a simplified world—but in the real world—winemaking is a complicated mistress born from toil and forged from state-of-the-art tools. Back in the day, those tools weren’t so high tech, either. Ever wonder how ancient civilizations managed to craft the popular beverage? Well, I will tell you one thing. It was not easy! With harvest just around the corner, it seems appropriate to take a peek back in time and marvel at just how far we’ve come. Many advances have been made, that’s for sure. However, some things haven’t changed. For instance, the ancient romans felt that drinking wine daily was a necessity. It was safer to drink than water and provided calories, too. Whatever the reason, I personally believe they were onto something there.
Now: Ubiquitous on the crush pad, the crusher/destemmer performs an engineering miracle by separating the stems and foliage from the ripe grape clusters to be made into wine. The harvested crop is loaded onto a conveyor belt then the machine takes over, ensuring that all that remains is usable fruit ready for crush. What a time-saver!
Then: The human hand did the trick. Yep, that’s right. Back in the early days of the Roman Empire, for example, winemakers used their hands to manually sort each cluster of grapes from the leaves and stems, taking great care to weed out any bad fruit.
Fun fact: Many ultra-boutique wineries still hand sort their clusters to this day, a practice which ensures truly premium, artisanal product. Kind of makes you realize just why that bottle of Cab might cost more than your Italian loafers, eh?
Adelaida Springs Ranch estate vineyard consistently produces a more refined, but still intense petite sirah. This vintage from Rangeland Wines carries heady aromas of blackberry and plum with a hint of hazelnut, perfect for the coming fall weather.
Mapping and Directions: speedfind.com/Rangeland
Now: The humble wine press is one of the most distinguishable tools used during winemaking. Although designs vary, it often looks a lot like a big barrel fitted with feet and topped with a plate (that’s the part that gets “pressed” down onto the fruit to extrudes the juices). These days, we have plenty of kinds of presses to choose from: basket, horizontal screw, bladder, continuous screw, and flash release to name a few (there’s enough for a whole other blog post!).
Then: Winemakers used a much more humble method: jumping into the barrel and pressing the fruit with their feet. One of the earliest visual representations of the practice appears on a Roman Empire sarcophagus from the third century AD, which depicts an idealized pastoral scene with a group of locals harvesting and stomping grapes with abandon. Since then, everyone from Lucille Ball to contemporary wineries have utilized the practice. Anyone who’s jumped into the fruit feet first knows what fun a bit of mess can make.
Light in color, this wine from Hug Cellars is as classy as an old world pinot can get. The wine offers great aromas of fresh red roses, strawberries, hints of cherries and fine leather. Plus, it comes off super fresh with great acidity, minerality, and savory spice notes.
Mapping and Directions: speedfind.com/HugCellars
Now: If you’ve hung around a winery during harvest time, chances are you’ve seen a lot of big, plastic bins. Tons of grapes are picked by hand and transported to the lightweight, durable vessels, which can then be carted off to the crush pad by truck. This may seem like a pretty basic system, but back in the day, transportation was a bit trickier.
Then: Many winemakers, including the ancient Egyptians, used large woven baskets to carry grapes from field to winemaking facility. Sometimes the baskets would be hauled manually on the backs of farm workers—other times, the help of a trusty horse or oxen would be employed.
Modern Marvel: 2012 Open Invite
Paso Robles has been known for great Zinfandel for 100 years, and this wine from Hammersky Vineyards is a continuation of that tradition with a crisp, flashy twist.
Mapping and Directions: speedfind.com/HammerSkyVineyards
Now: Aging in oak barrels softens wines and often adds pleasing flavors and aromas to the mix, like caramel, vanilla, and toast.
Then: The Ancient Greeks and Romans were aware of the potential of aged wines and, in Greece, early examples of dried “straw wines” were noted for their ability to age due to their high sugar contents. These wines were stored in sealed earthenware amphorae and kept for many years. In Rome, the most sought after wines—Falernian and Surrentine—were prized for their ability to age for decades. The Greek physician Galen wrote that the “taste” of aged wine was desirable and that this could be accomplished by heating or smoking the wine, though, in Galen’s opinion, these artificially aged wines were not as healthy to consume as naturally aged wines. Looks like wine snobs have existed as long as wine has been around!
Dark-colored, fragrant and firm textured; this Rhone style blend from Cass Winery resembles freshly cut tobacco, BBQ spice, and dried leather notes. A bright acidity and a savory spice create the focused foundation on the palate highlighting black cherry, smoked tomato paste and nuances of grilled fennel. Love at first sip?
Mapping and Directions: speedfind.com/CassWinery
Now: you can ship a case of wine around the world and know that those bottles will keep the wine fresh and tasty.
Then: For a few thousand years, starting with the ancient Egyptians, clay amphorae were the way armies and traders transported wine over long distances. There were other civilizations, primarily in the Mesopotamian region, who used palm wood barrels, but this was the exception, not the rule. While palm wood barrels weighed far less than clay amphorae, palm wood was difficult to bend. Clay offered another advantage: it was airtight if sealed properly. Still…it was every wine transporter’s nightmare to imagine that one big clay vessel could roll off the side of the wagon and shatter into a million pieces.
A GSM for the ages! Two Moons is a collaboration of Rhone style winemaking by John Gleason and Neil Roberts of Clavo Cellars. The goal? To produce high quality, lower alcohol wines from the finest winegrapes grown on the Central Coast of California. This wine is a stunning example of just what these two winemakers can do.
Mapping and Directions: speedfind.com/ClavoCellars
If you’re looking for a place to spend the night in Paso Robles, checkout:
The Adelaide Inn is an iconic, locally owned hotel known for its friendly staff and lush landscaping. With spacious rooms and a convenient location close to highway 101 and the event center – home of the California Mid-State Fair – this hotel is a great choice for most travelers.
La Bellasera Hotel & Suites is an elegant boutique hotel nestled in the heart of Central Coast Wine Country. Influenced by Mediterranean and Italian architecture, the luxurious accommodations reflect the aged sophistication of the Central Coast region and the relaxed nature of the California countryside.
Hampton Inn & Suites Paso Robles is nestled in the Central Coast wine region, home to over 200 wineries, beautiful beaches, mountains and diverse attractions. Relax and revive in a comfortable guest room with all you need for a successful stay. You can count on Hampton to deliver value, consistency and service with a smile. We love having you here®
Experience the pristine countryside of Paso Robles Wine Country at Lekai Ranch. Lounge on the porch of your private suite and lose yourself in the tranquility and stunning views of the vineyards and oak studded hills beyond. This vacation rental is located just minutes from some of the most distinguished wineries and a premier olive oil estate, and only 15 minutes from downtown Paso Robles’ restaurants, wineries and shopping.