September 28, 2005. A Six Sigma Milestone!
Ten years ago today, we processed grapes for the first time at Six Sigma Winery. Our friend, Ann Morrill, was on site, and I found the story she wrote back then. Another long-term friend, John McJunkin took the pictures.
By Ann Morrill. Photos by John McJunkin.
Six Sigma Ranch & Vineyards has reached an important milestone in its young history. On September 28, 2005, we harvested the first crop from Christian’s Diamond Mine Vineyard, carefully transporting the grapes down the mountain to the winery where they were hand-sorted, crushed and transformed into the first vintage of wine produced on-site. The last pieces of equipment had been installed at the new winery just days before, making this production possible.
The day started like most September days at the high-altitude ranch in the California mountains – with a bright sun peeking over the eastern range bringing light to a vineyard ready for harvest. It ended with the satisfaction that the planning and years of work had paid off. Tempranillo grapes, at just the right stage of development – with sugar and tannins in perfect form – had been safely delivered to tanks for fermentation.
Between the two ends of the day – one filled with anticipation and the other with deep satisfaction – activity permeated the ranch. A few vineyard workers carefully removed netting that had protected the grapes from scavenging birds. Others worked to meticulously retrieve large bunches of deep purple grapes from their sunny perch on vines that had been groomed, watered, and nurtured for months. The work-crew loaded small crates of grapes onto a flatbed truck for the journey down the mountain, being careful not to mar or damage the grapes in any way.
Another skilled crew waited at the winery – two miles away and three hundred feet lower on the valley floor – where they inspected and sorted the grapes, carefully removing less-than-perfect fruit to preserve the rich, pure taste of grapes harvested at just the right time. Winemakers Denis & May-Britt Malbec supervised everything from the sorting of the grapes to the creation of the wine, and by day’s end, 6.4 tons of grapes had been crushed and deposited in fermenting tanks where they will stay until the wine is ready to go into French oak barrels for aging.
For all of us who alternately watched and participated, this day was about much more than doing a job. In fact, this day was about more than making wine – as important as that was. For Kaj, this was the fulfillment of a 30-year dream, not only because he was producing wine but also because the activities of the day were filled with the essential connections of life. On this day, people from diverse backgrounds and walks of life found connection with each other, with the land, with the sky.
Today, red volcanic soil, perfect for red grapes, provided an abundant harvest. Today, work crews who had tended the vineyard from early spring pruning through the hot summer months reaped the fruit of harvest. Today, vineyard manager and winemakers worked side by side with the laborers who devoted hours of hard work to a beautiful crop. Friends, family, and suppliers watched and helped as we could. At least 5 languages were heard this day – but this diverse group worked together toward a common goal and, together, celebrated the fruit of success. Under the bright, warm September sun, we shared the excitement of anticipation and the satisfaction of a job well done. It was a day for teamwork – for essential connections – friend with friend, family, coworker, and land. Winemaking may be a business, but for today, it was much more than that. At Six Sigma, we hope it always stays that way.