More American winemakers are hand-pruning, hand-harvesting, and foot-stomping in their quest for wine greatness. Here's why they think the old ways are the best.
As winemaking technology becomes increasingly advanced, with smartphone-operated fermentation tanks and computerized bottling lines, more US producers are taking a tactile approach—by literally using their hands. “It’s the only way we can ensure that our wine expresses the grapes and vineyards in the greatest possible manner,” says Anna Schafer of àMaurice in Washington state. There’s a range of commitment to the handmade: Some producers simply focus on harvesting grapes by hand rather than with machines, while a few go so far as to hand-bottle. Ironically, one of the most important aspects of hands-on winemaking is knowing when not to intervene—to be hands-off.
Even the most hands-on producers have welcomed machine-operated bottling lines into their repertoire—but not Erin Nuccio at Evesham Wood in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. He still uses a 1986 manual machine, corking six bottles at a time, 300 cases a day, 10,000 cases a year.