Although workers have already begun picking certain varieties of wine grapes at a number of Central Coast vineyards, the 2017 harvest became “official” Thursday with the blessing of the grapes at Terravant Wine Co. in Buellton.
More than 100 people gathered outside the entrance to Terravant’s Bottlest Winery, Bar & Bistro at 35 Industrial Way, where a bin of grapes — perfect in both shape and deep, rich color — sat at the foot of the stairs, awaiting the multidenominational blessing.
Rather than one blessing, however, it was actually three, delivered by Father Chuck Stacy of Solvang, Rabbi Jayne Simon of San Luis Obispo and the Rev. Randall Day of St. Marks-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church in Los Olivos.
Lew Eisaguirre, president of Terravant, told the crowd of employees, clients, their families and guests from the general community that the 2017 harvest marked the winery’s 10th.
Eisaguirre related that when Terravant was started 10 years ago, he knew nothing about making wine, and as the first harvest began rolling in, his partner said, “Hey, we’ve got to bless the grapes.”
Eisaguirre’s response to his partner drew laughs from Thursday’s crowd: “Do they know? Did they ask for this?”
But that launched the tradition of blessing the grapes at Terravant, and Eisaguirre said Stacy and Simon have been involved in the event practically every year since.
Stacy, formerly the rector at St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley, recalled how at one time the wine industry in the Santa Ynez Valley was just fledgling, but now wineries and wine tasting rooms are springing up everywhere, bringing recognition to the area.
“And it’s not schlock,” he said of the area’s wine. “Everything that’s being grown and is going out of here is quality.”
In his blessing, he asked God to “keep (the winemakers) ever looking for new things, exciting things … and doing it all in your name.”
Simon also recalled asking for many blessings on the grapes, noting, “It has been joyous all those years.”
She also explained the Jewish custom of touching or being in close proximity to whatever is being blessed — in this case “these gorgeous, gorgeous grapes” — before asking in Yiddish a blessing for something done for the first time, as the grapes being blessed were among the first of the season’s harvest.
Day let the crowd in on a little secret about blessings — that they are asked for what the item being blessed is intended to be or to be used for.
“What that means is these grapes are already a blessing,” he said, then pointed out the slogan on the back of the T-shirts worn by many of the Terravant employees: “It’s not winemaking, it’s wine magic.”
“The magic is not in the words; the magic is in all of you,” he said, then asked for blessings on the sun and earth, the vines and grapes and all the people involved in the entire process of winemaking.
As the blessings were being asked, flutes of sparkling wine were handed out to all those present, but before Eisaguirre could offer up a toast, Stacy said, “Every blessing needs water,” then surprised Eisaguirre by splashing him with water from a silver tube, drawing more laughs from the crowd.
Following the toast, Eisaguirre noted Terravant had bottled a special wine with the “magic” slogan on the label.
“Take a bottle,” he told the crowd, “I encourage you to keep it 10 years and bring it back for the next (anniversary).”
As the crowd moved inside and upstairs to the bar and bistro for the anniversary celebration, each one was handed a “Bottlest Buck” good for a free drink.
“Usually, this is small, low-key, just for the employees and clients,” explained Dave Moser, Terravant vice president of Direct to Consumer, as the bar and bistro filled with celebrants. “But since this was the winery’s 10th anniversary, we decided to make it a little bigger deal.”