I had the pleasure of visiting the Napa Valley in September, while the 2016 crush was in full swing. It’s always a favorite time of year to visit because there’s so much excitement from everyone in the industry, and there’s the unmistakable aroma of freshly crushed grapes in the air. How fortunate it was that I happened to time my visit to Paradigm Winery on the very same day that their Merlot grapes were harvested to make their yummy rosé — right there from their estate.
Assistant winemaker Mark Fasi happily showed me around the facility, first letting me examine (and taste) the grapes straight from the vines to the bins. The fruit was bright, plump and perfectly round. I haven’t seen such picture perfect grapes even in a magazine. The sweetness of the fruit was so delicious that I’m not sure I’ll be able to wait a year to get that wine.
Next up was the de-stemmer, a cool machine that does what it says: gently removes the stems from the grapes. Paradigm is a small family-run operation so their equipment isn’t as fancy as some of the big boys in town. I happen to think that these small wineries craft a superior product because all of the care and attention that goes into crafting a gorgeous wine.
Lastly it was time to watch the “crush.” As the grapes were gently tossed and the skins broken, Mark bent down to closely monitor the color of the juice that was extracted below. The overwhelming smell of grapes made my mouth water, and Mark explained how he wanted to get just the right color before putting the juice in a barrel.
Watching this process first hand was educational and thrilling, and when I eventually pull the cork on a bottle of 2016 Paradigm Rosé of Merlot, I can (sort of) say that “oh yeah, I helped make that!”