Picking a Winner:
Ed Aguerro sorts out grapes to be used in wine made by Joe and Heather
D’Augustine at their home in the Echo Park district northwest of
Downtown. The D’Augustines grow the grapes on their backyard hillside,
and recently invited friends and neighbors to help with the Fall
harvest. The volunteer laborers can expect to share in the 2009
D’Augustine vintages when the wine is finished. The D’Augustines do not
sell the wine, but they have been honored at the California State Fair
for a prior vintage.
By Susan Borden
Special to the Garment & Citizen
It’s hard to believe that this happened just a few months ago—and in Echo Park.
that’s where rows of grape vines curved around a sunny slope as pickers
wearing wide-brimmed hats carefully plucked bunches of the dark, juicy
could have been a scene from a distant, bucolic past—or perhaps a
modern-day movie set. No make-believe here, though. Real wine is being
made from those purple grapes even as you read this report.
Indeed, Joe and Heather D’Augustine
have been making wine at their home in Echo Park for several years.
They’ve enjoyed “country” wine they made from local fruit, including
apples that grow on their property. A few years ago they branched out
into grape growing, and their first bottling of D’Augustine Vineyard
Syrah won a bronze medal at the California State Fair in 2006.
don’t sell their wine—they’d have to be licensed and bonded to do that,
so they keep it for gatherings of friends and family. They’ve fought
off some challenges along the way, including the loss of a significant
portion of the grape crop last year to coyotes, who ate up all of the
low-hanging fruit they could reach.
two organic farmers have been resolute, though, and this year they were
rewarded with a bumper grape crop. They decided back in September that
the same friends and neighbors who will enjoy the wine might like to
help out with the harvest.
were plenty of takers for that deal, and the crowd of helpers brought
in the largest harvest yet—more than 500 pounds of Shiraz grapes.
D’Augustines showed the group how to get the grapes ready for crushing,
and many hands went to work on piles of the fruit at long, shaded
The prepared grapes went into the hopper of the crusher, a formidable piece of hand-cranked equipment.
resulting tubs of purple slurry were taken away to the basement for the
next stage in their transformation into next year’s D’Augustine Syrah
Red or Syrah Rose.
workers got an immediate payoff for their labor when the D’Augustines
baked pizza for their crew of volunteers, cooking up the meal in an
outdoor brick oven that overlooks the vines.
harvest day closed with guitar music floating over the hillside as
tired but happy workers enjoyed their al fresco meal and looked forward
to sampling a truly local wine in 2009.