All we can think about right now is harvesting grapes! Everywhere I look, there are purple and gold clusters of grapes waiting for their cue. That cue usually comes in the form of a Labor Day heat spike, and 2017 is no exception! The only difference this year was the heat’s arrival a week early. Fortunately, we completed our bottling last week and had a few days to prepare equipment before picking our first grapes.
Early August was a different story. It was relatively cool, with a persistent fog layer hanging over Green Valley and western Sonoma County, for entire days. Not an uncommon situation, which slowed the sugar accumulation of our grapes down to a crawl. During a year like this one, with plenty of early summer heat, this slowdown allowed some of the other ripeness factors (acidity, tannin, and flavor) to catch up a bit, producing more balanced grapes.
On August 21, we were exposed to a novel “downside” to living in a cool, foggy, coastal grape growing region. Our eclipse viewing was a bust! The photo shows our overhead, as we waited to see the 80 percent eclipse predicted for our area.
FIRST GRAPES OF 2017
The most exciting day of harvest is always the first day; and for 2017, it occurred on August 30.
Grapes from the Boschetti Vineyard, on the east side of the Russian River Valley, were first across the sorting table, the start of what I expect to be a great vintage! I’ve been making Pinot Noir from this vineyard for over 15 years, first working with Pete Boschetti, Sr., back in the early 2000s. Now, it’s Pete, Jr., and Carole Boschetti managing the family’s farm, carrying on a legacy that stretches back to the 1920s! Check out the photo below, with Matthew Boschetti (our lead cellar technician) handling grapes from his namesake vineyard block!
We’ll continue to harvest Pinot Noir daily, until our tanks are full, with our Estate Green Valley Pinot Noir taking center stage.
Our newest “crop” of harvest interns is now on board, with every day being an opportunity for them to learn a new set of skills. Although they were hired to help out with the demands of a winery harvest season, Ed and I were happy to have the full team here for our recent bottling.
We spend a lot of time preparing for harvest, concentrating on the importance of sanitation in the cellar. A quality batch of grape juice can be diminished quickly, by the numerous spoilage yeast and bacteria that drift in from the vineyard. The power washer, steam generator, and even simple scrubbies get a real workout, in the hands of our harvest interns. With proper sanitation, we can better control the types of yeast that provide the fermentation muscle in our tanks!
Another critical element in our staff education is safety. Here you see Ed instructing the harvest crew about tank entry procedures.
We have a very robust safety program, to prevent injuries that could occur when working around confined tanks, forklifts, and elevated work spaces. Although our grapes are precious to us, they are nothing compared to the well-being of our team.
Ed Morris’ Cooperage Notes for September, 2017:
September is an exciting time of year for us. We’re ramping up for grape harvest, and starting to receive our new 2017 barrels. Most of our barrels come from France. French oak contributes restrained aromatics and savory-spicy notes, which matches so well with our cool climate grapes. Our barrels are packed in shipping containers and then loaded onto cargo ships. They slowly make their way across the Atlantic, down through the Panama Canal, up the Pacific Coastline, and finally into the Port of Oakland. After such a long journey, we get very excited to have them arrive in the cellar!
One of my favorite things to do, during the year, is to inspect the barrels as they come in. I get to see and experience the summation, of an incredible process. Much like making a bottle of wine, coopering a barrel involves many hands. These hands are dedicated and skilled men and women devoted to the pursuit of excellence.
I still remember the first time I smelled a new barrel. It was a transformative experience. I feel truly blessed to be able to relive that experience, as our new barrels arrive. I can’t help to think that the barrels are in some way as eager to be filled with the new vintage as we are to fill them!
WATCH FOR OUR LIVE REPORTS FROM THE CRUSH PAD AND VINEYARD
We’ll be posting numerous videos, including live Facebook streams, from the crush pad and vineyard over the course of September. Friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Instagram, and watch for these videos to get an up-to-date look, at the production of our 2017 wines!