Updated: Oct 5, 2021
Fall is here and we have successfully survived this year’s harvest! Barely, to say the least. Thankfully, the vines are bare, the tanks are full, fermentation is drawing to a close, and press is upon us. Since we didn’t share our usual harvest updates, we’ll fill you in now.
From the Vineyard
Harvest really begins with the ripening of the grapes. Each varietal ripens at its own pace and in the weeks leading up to harvest we check them regularly for development and sugars. We look for a few main things; tissue color and consistency, pH and acidity, and of course Brix, or sugar content. While there are fancy tools that come in handy for precise Brix measurements, we like to use the tools we already have as well. We squish the grapes, take a look, and chew on them a bit to really tell if they are ripe for picking. Once ready, they are handpicked by varietal and carted to the crush pad for processing. It is always up to the grapes when harvest will happen and this year, quite unusually, they decided to be ready all at once!
On the Crush Pad
Once the bins of grapes are on the crush pad, the first step is to destem the fruit and lightly crush it to extract juice. While quite simple in design, the destemming machine never fails to leave us a little in awe of its capabilities. To sum it up; the bunches go in, the stems shoot out one side grape free, and the berries are lightly crushed and pumped into tanks where the magic of fermentation takes place. We test the juice for sugar, pH, Acidity, and temperature and inoculate. Inoculation is the introduction of yeast which sparks and aids in the fermentation process.
Fermentation is the change from sugar to alcohol. During fermentation color and tannin are extracted from the skins and seeds which form a cap called the must. Gasses produced during fermentation push this cap up leaving the juice trapped below. Everyday the must is punched down to soak the skins and release gasses. (In the photo is a tote we filled just a little too full! During fermentation the cap was pushed up over the top.) When all the sugar has been changed into alcohol and the fermentation process cools, the must cap sinks into the wine. This is a sign it is time to press!
The wine and grape skins are transferred to a basket press where the wine is drained while the skins are gradually pressed. The result is a young wine ready to settle and the pressed skins, which we like to call a grape puck or cake. Once pressed, the new vintages settle in the cellar until they are ready to be racked off the lees (the remaining sediment and yeast).
A lot of hard work goes into a bottle of wine and approximately 800 to 1200 grapes!
Savor and enjoy that next glass! Cheers.