Today was the beginning of the grape harvest at the winery. In the business we call it "crush." We use the word "party" as a verb to describe the action of celebration and in this case "crush" becomes a noun that evokes the action of harvest. In the wine making business, the party starts now.
The winery has a tradition of holding a brief ceremony to bless the harvest when the first grapes come in from the vineyards. As crush approaches, the wine making interns are sampling grapes from the vineyards on an almost daily basis so the winemaker can decide when they've reached the perfect sugar content. When the brix (a scientific term for the amount of sugar the grape contains) hits the "sweet spot" the winemaker is looking for, harvest begins for the winery.
One of the charms of this event is that you never know when it will be until just a day or two before it takes place. The winemaker decides its time; the grapes are ready. Someone calls Father Steven from the local Episcopal Diocese and an email goes out: "The Blessing of the Grapes will be held tomorrow at 9:30am."
I'm not religious, but I'm always touched by the solemn dignity of the ceremony and by the respect shown by all the winery personnel. Everyone attends, from the vineyard workers to the general manager. Father Steven always reads the benedict about the "milk and honey," waves the incense over the grapes, and uses a sheaf of freshly-cut rosemary to splash the crowd with holy water to bless us all for creating the wine. There's always a little nosh and a glass of wine to celebrate.
Once the ceremony is done, they start up the sorting line and crush officially starts. The first grapes picked this year were Merlot, in case you were wondering. Here they are in all their glory, waiting to be blessed and fulfill their destiny.