One smashing good time

Grape harvest means long days,
lots of wine at Les Bourgeois
Tuesday, September 21, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:40 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

As the cymbal-like sound of a clashing wine filter mixes with the funky rhythms of a Wilco CD, Cory Bomgaars and Jacob Holman weave between large silver tanks, mashing dark red grapes and flushing out slippery white fluid.

For the past six weeks, Bomgaars, 33, and Holman, 27, have devoted their lives to harvesting grapes at Les Bourgeois winery in Rocheport.

Les Bourgeois’ 35 acres make up a part of Missouri’s 1,100 acres of grapes now under harvest for wine production.

These few weeks are the winemakers’ busiest of the year.

“We’ve been working 14 to 16 hours every day,” said Bomgaars, head winemaker at Les Bourgeois. “That’s why they call it the crush — it’s really not about crushing the grapes.”

“We work our buns off,” he said.

But Bomgaars and his colleagues do not appear to be suffering.

“It’s such an intense period and the best time of the year. After a hard day, it takes a lot of beer to make good wine,” he said.

T-shirts are optional while making wine at Les Bourgeois. In fact, a Bradford pear tree sitting outside the production area holds a half-dozen dirty shirts discarded by the young winemakers.

“We pretty much come here and take our shirts off and get to work,” Bomgaars said.

“We’ve been working 14 to 16 hours every day. That’s why they call it the crush — it’s really not about crushing the grapes.”

--Cory Bomgaars

As Bomgaars mashes grapes in what looks like to be a huge pot of chocolate mousse, he explains the last cycle of harvesting grapes.

On Friday night, the harvesters picked grapes from the field, selecting those with just the right amount of ripeness. On Saturday, they squeezed and pressed the grapes. They then let the resulting juice settle all day Sunday. On Monday, they filtered the clear juice and added yeast to begin the fermenting process, which can take three to four weeks.

After fermentation, the juice will be left alone to settle until November when the harvesters will mix blends to make the final product.

This year, harvesting at Les Bourgeois should yield about 80,000 gallons, or about 400,000 bottles, of wine.

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