- September 22, 2017
Harvest is always an exciting time of year, but it can bring anxiety and nervousness. It reminds us that we are at Mother Nature’s will, and this year is no exception. Winemaker Parke and Vineyard Manager David monitor the weather daily (sometimes hourly!), while we all cross our fingers that it doesn’t rain and hope for moderate/warm temperatures to evenly ripen the grapes.
Just before Labor Day, the temperatures soared to over 105°F for four days straight. That ripened the grapes quickly, triggering us to pick our Chardonnay. That meant no holiday weekend for the vineyard and cellar crews…Mother Nature had other plans.
With the Chardonnay now fermenting in tanks and barrels, the cellar and vineyard teams are taking a much needed breather and waiting patiently (or maybe a little anxiously) for the red varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot) to ripen.
Temperatures have been relatively cool the past week with mornings dipping to the high 40s and low 50s while the afternoon sun brings mid-80s which has slowed the ripening. Looking to the weekend and early next week, we are anticipating a warming trend, so we hope to harvest some Malbec for our Rosé soon.
Since there is a lull in work, we decided to ask Parke and David a few questions about Harvest 2017.
NOTES FROM PARKE
How do you think the 2017 Chardonnay wine will be? I think it will be great vintage. Our yields are 20% less than average but the quality is good.
When you think back to the Chardonnay Harvest, what stands out for you? Two things: Hot, hot days and discouraging yields. To beat the heat, we started picking at 4 am to take advantage of the coldest part of the day and by 10 am, we were finished harvesting. However, with every block we picked, the quantity was 15 - 20% less than we had anticipated, which is disappointing. This means that we will sell fewer grapes but our wine production levels will remain the same. (In an average year, we sell about 60% of our fruit to other wineries.)
What 3 words describe how you are feeling now looking forward to the red grapes? (Heavy sigh) Anxious, optimistic, pessimistic.
What is the first thing you will do once all the grapes are in the winery? Lots of pumpovers and monitoring the Cabernet, Malbec and Petit Verdot fermentations.
NOTES FROM DAVID
When you think back to the Chardonnay Harvest, what stands out for you? The urgency. The weather was so hot that the fruit ripened very quickly so we had to get it off fast!
What 3 words describe how you are feeling now looking forward to the red grapes? (Hmmmm… long pause) Being a Vineyard Manager in the midst of Harvest, I’d have to say: nervous, impatient and anxious...pessimistic too but maybe I shouldn’t be! I want to get the fruit off more now than in a normal year because of the heat and then the cold pattern plus a 1/3 of inch of rain. We’ve worked so hard through the course of the year that I don’t want anything to go wrong in the next few weeks. Once we get the fruit off, the grapes are in Parke’s hands, and we can look forward to Harvest 2018.
What is the first thing you will do once you’ve picked all the grapes? Take a deep breath and reset the vineyard clock to Day Zero. Then go enjoy my weekends again.
If we’ve sparked your curiosity about Harvest, you can read about night picking or watch a video of David driving the machine harvester.