My sleep patterns are irregular these last few days and I’ve been ignoring my housework. I’m eating on the run and neglecting my correspondence. I’ve got crud under my fingernails, my eyes are bleary, my muscles ache, my clothes are stained purple and I’m listening to altogether too much oompa loompa Cumbia. Am I having a nervous breakdown? NO! I’m a new winemaker who can’t stop hovering over her grapes! Woo hooo!

Ezekiel is a seasonal worker from Chiapas who helped pick my Grenache











Friday morning I went into Barón Balchés vineyard and harvested my Grenache along with a professional team of grape pickers who (fortunately) really knew what they were doing 😉

The awesome grape harvesters at Barón Balche. These guys Rock!

With the help of a friend and his trusty pick-up the crates of fruit were hauled to Rancho Codocana in Guadalupe where they were crushed into a tank then hauled to the cold room.

Sorting my Grenache as it goes into the crusher.








I withheld two crates from the crush because I wanted to add whole berries to the must (wine language for the juice after crush) for a partial carbonic fermentation (this adds more esters and fresh fruit flavors to the wine).


One of the beautiful, whole clusters of Grenache I added to the must.

It took me a couple of hours to sort through the fruit, pulling out raisins and unripe berries from the tight, sticky clusters. My dog, Lily shadowed me all day and stood guard attentively while her mama contentedly sorted fruit.


Sweet Lily snaps at flies and chews on grape stems while her mama works








Saturday morning bright and early my Syrah from San Vicente Valley arrived and those were crushed and put in their own tank in the cold room. The Syrah grapes are larger, looser berries and this harvest was more uneven than the Grenache with quite a bit of small, unripe grapes that had me worried. I added natural enzymes to the must which aid in releasing desirable aromas and flavors while reducing disagreeable “green” extractions. I hope this will help.

Sunday morning the Grenache is vigorously fermenting and maintaining healthy temperatures. And the juice from both tanks tastes delicious. Yay!


After the destemming and crush, frothy juice (now called must), skins and seeds flow into the fermentation tank

I had a friendly conversation with neighbor, Hector Neira, the new Chilean enologist at Château Camou the other day. Hector is a proponent of biodynamic viticulture (pertaining to vineyard management) and winemaking. He’s been making a lot of changes at Château Camou and it will be very interesting to see how his current vintages turn out. Among other things he talked about how colors, sound, lighting, even the shape of a room can influence the wine. At first this sounded a little “woo woo” and over-the-top to me. I’m really just worried about getting the basics down at this point. On the other hand, another highly esteemed winemaker, Dr. Victor Torres of Vinos Torres Alegre, echoed some of these sentiments and plays classical music at his bodega. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to discover other winemakers who sing to their grapes or install mood lighting to encourage good vibes ….. These thoughts crossed my mind as I entered the bodega this morning and was greeted by a bouncy Cumbia cover of “Cotton Fields” playing over the radio. Perhaps my wine will be a tad spicier due to this happy influence? At any rate I figure it can’t hurt to think loving thoughts while working with the grapes. I like the idea that consumers will taste the love and the music in every happy cup.

The bodega at Rancho Codocana is finished with broken ceramic roof tiles, broken brick and volcanic rock. I love the combination of textures.

Categories: Mexican Wine


Barbara · September 23, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Wonderful – thanks so much for sharing. I loved every word and image.

    valleygirl · September 23, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    I always enjoy feedback from a fellow writer, Barbara. Thank you!

Romeo R James Enslow · September 23, 2012 at 10:07 pm

Housework?, fu-gedda-bout-it! Bleary eyes and cruddy fingernails, beautiful! Someday we will look back and laugh–hahahahahahah! As they say: “This, too, will pass”. Good on ya, girl. Best of fortune to you. I believe in you. _/_ heart, heart.

    valleygirl · September 23, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    I’m exhausted, but happy as a clam, my dear {heart heart to you too!}

susan mahalick · September 23, 2012 at 11:59 pm

That is a wonderful story Sitara…I am glad it is making you so very happy…I can see it in the wide smile on your face under the hat.. Bueno Suerte con Todo!

Kerry · September 24, 2012 at 5:38 am

I’ve got a crush on you. Sweetie pie. Dododo. Dahdahdah. Yes! Feel the love and sing girlfriend. Sing sing sing. Homemade wine it makes you feel so fine. Keeps you drinkin all of the time. Is that how it goes?

    valleygirl · September 24, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Here’s another one, girlfriend: If you can’t be with the wine you love, love the wine you’re with 😉

      Kerry · September 29, 2012 at 6:19 pm

      That’s a good one. I wish wine didn’t give such a ferocious headache ….but it does! I’m in Kauai for a week with Malcome. Please send me your current email address so I can write to you. Hang tough

        valleygirl · September 29, 2012 at 10:39 pm

        I’m getting stronger every daaaayyyy …! Doo t n doo doooo! Too much of anything is TOO MUCH. With a few notable exceptions, e.g. love …. <3 Aloha and hugs, girlfriend xo

Jim Mckinney · September 24, 2012 at 6:49 pm

It’s so good to see you so happy. Am looking forward to tasting your wine one of these days.

    valleygirl · September 24, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    It’s lovely to hear from you, Jim! Where in the world are you now? 😉 Yes, I’m having the time of my life. I’ll set aside a bottle with your name on it.

Alicia · September 25, 2012 at 3:13 am

Sitara, thank you so much for sharing your adventure. It is inspiring and I am so excited for you. Additionally it is amazing to read and share in your excitement.
I can only say that I am confident that your wine will have more heart than any other.
This is the start and only just the beginning of something very special on every level for you the Valley Girl of Baja.

    valleygirl · September 25, 2012 at 7:05 am

    Aii, Alicia! Thank you for your words of encouragement. Please come down anytime to tour wine country as my guest. Good times ensured. Saludos y besos from the “Valley” 🙂

Pat · September 30, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Your email went to my junkmail and I am so glad I found it. I would hate to have missed this wonderful story.

    valleygirl · September 30, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    Thank you, Pat. I”m tickled pink that you enjoyed the post. It’s delightful to hear from you!

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