Dima and his family invited us to join them Sunday to see how wine is made in Moldovan villages. Larry, Armando and I arrived at Dima's house at 11:30. Dima and his mother Ana got into my car and we all drove to the family's plot of grapes outside the village. We found his father Efim and Efim's uncle hard at work picking grapes. But our arrival signified time for lunch. Ana spread blankets on the ground and got out the china. She served red peppers stuffed with rice, chicken and spices. Efim sliced the bread and we ate smoked fish.
Now it was time to get to work. We started down the rows, picking bunches of grapes and putting them in plastic garbage bags. Over the next three hours we filled fifty garbage bags with grapes.
There were two kinds of dark grapes. The Moldova grapes were big and there were lots of them in each bunch. The second variety, which Dima called "Goats breasts" were smaller and had fewer in each bunch but were very sweet. In many of the rows most of the grapes were at shoulder level and were easy to pick. In other places the grapes were low to the ground and we got sore backs after leaning over to pick them.
The Americans were all tired long before we finished the eighth and final row. We let Efim and his uncle haul the bags to the family's truck and lift them in.
We all headed back to their house where we ate delicious chicken soup. A huge barrel of freshly squeezed green grapes sat in the yard beginning to ferment. We enjoyed the very sweet grape juice. Ana's sister brought some white wine she had made three weeks earlier.
Efim, his brother-in-law and this uncle washed and sterilized the inside of a stainless steel box. Dima said it would hold 2000 liters. They moved the box to the top of the stairs going down to the wine cellar. Next they brought a hand-cranked wringer that would crush the grapes and put it above the hole on the top of the box. Dima handed the bags of grapes down from the truck to Efim's uncle who carried them over and dumped them into the bin over the wringer. We took turns cranking the wringer and stirring the grapes in the bin so that they continued to fall through the wringer. It took only half a minute to squish each garbage bag full of grapes.