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Keeping the water flowing

Necessity, it is said, is the mother of invention, and after a long summer of heat and drought, protecting the supply of well water at our rural property in Garrett County is definitely a necessity.

Call us old-fashioned, but running water surely ranks among modern life’s most dazzling accomplishments. So, going into what historically are our two driest months with a depleted aquifer is, well, worrisome.

This is also our period of highest water use. Our wine press uses lots of water — about 55 gallons per ton of grapes — to process up to 15 tons each harvest. So, that’s some 800 gallons of water used once, then lost.

In dry years past, I resorted to an air compressor to fill the rubber bladder, which expands to squeeze the mass of crushed grapes inside the press to force out the juice. But pressing with water is preferable, and makes a lot less noise, too; the yammer of the compressor is a mind-numbing distraction around the winery.

Yet, once the water comes out of the winery’s pipes, I can’t put it back into the system — unless, I realized, I change the system!

Above the concrete press-pad is the deck of our home. Last week, I put a 60-gallon barrel up there. After the first press load, I pumped the water back up to the deck. It tacked 20 minutes onto the two-hour process, but with the water in the barrel, I simply siphoned it down into the press via a garden hose for successive pressings.

We’re halfway through the vintage — on the original 55 gallons!

As someone deeply involved in the decision about whether Maryland should permit unconventional shale gas development, water resources are a big topic. Talk about using water — “fracking” a typical gas well uses between 5 and 8 million gallons, and hundreds of wells are planned. Companies also have begun to recycle, but, still, many of us wonder about the impact in a region where underground supplies are uncertain during droughts. With the added pressure from this industrial demand, would there be any water for me to recycle?

Biz Buzz Best Buy Red: Altas Las Hormigas 2011 Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina). Finding a Malbec with distinctive aromas and flavors, to match the Extreme Alcohol Experience typical of this variety grown in the Southern Hemisphere, can be challenging. But this one has a fascinating array, including eucalyptus, cinnamon, and dark chocolate. Excellent for an autumn barbeque and maybe Monday Night Football, at home in an easy chair. Just don’t try driving! $11.

White: Daniel Pollier Saint-Veran “En Messie” 2011 (Burgundy, France). Pure expressions of the grape, unobscured by oak aging, have become popular in the New World, but if you want to taste an original, which never went out of style, try Pollier’s unadorned Chardonnay — crisp, minty, minerally, rustic White Burgundy. Very Petite Chablis, yet only $11.