Wednesday, September 9, 2009

They're here....

They’re here…. Chardonnay grapes that is, not the poltergeist of Alfred Tubbs (he’s always here).

The delivery of 17 tons of Chardonnay from one of our growers in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley marked the official start of the 2009 Harvest for us here at Chateau Montelena. This is the 38th consecutive harvest under the current ownership, but there is a much longer history, dating back to the first harvest in 1882 under the direction of the above mentioned Alfred Tubbs – the founder of Chateau Montelena. But enough with the history lesson; that was 127 years ago… So, yesterday’s grapes were both Dijon clones of Chardonnay, clones 809 and 96 to be precise, and this is the first time that we’ve worked with them here at Montelena. So far we’re quite excited about them – we saw great early flavor development without high sugars, which means lower final alcohol, something that we work hard to achieve every year. Yields were very good - about 3.25 tons per acre – especially considering that these vines were T-budded over from Merlot only 2 years ago. The juice tastes great in the tank, so we’ll see how the flavors change during fermentation and aging, but it won’t be until we pull everything out of barrel before bottling next August that we really find out how these new clones fit (or don’t).

The next round of fruit will come in tomorrow – another Dijon clone (76) – so if you’re in the area, stop by in the morning to watch us load the presses. Get here early though, as all of our Chardonnay is harvested at night in order to assure that we receive cool firm fruit – this preserves the delicate flavors, helps prevent damage or unwanted microbial growth in the picking bins, and reduces the amount of energy needed to cool the juice during the initial settling. After that, we should be off and running, with fruit coming in every day from that point on. I expect we’ll be picking the first Estate Cabernet Sauvignon grapes sometime next week….

Until next week, Happy Harvesting and Cheers from the top of the Napa Valley!

Keep reading to see what our Intern Daniel Orrison had to say about the past week.

Cameron Parry – Winemaker

Chateau Montelena Winery

First Day of Harvest 9/8/09

The last few weeks have been relatively calm around the winery… cleaning tanks, racking wine, sanitizing (everything you can imagine), cleaning more tanks, and for the interns, trying slow but sure to learn the ins-and-outs of Montelena-- an area I’ve found comes far more from experience than anything else. Fortunately however, experience, is something Montelena does very well. Certain members of the cellar staff have worked at the winery for over 20 years! They may not be able to offer you the book definition of malolactic fermentation, or the theory behind volatile acidity, though, working with them daily I have learned more about wine than I could have ever imagined. For example, the importance of hard work, responsibility, care, dedication to trade, and professionalism (even in the most mundane and simple tasks) that must take place daily for any wine to be successful. In this area alone I have grown as a person and my appreciation for wine and its process has been heightened without the sign of a single grape!

But who wants to talk about topics that don’t involve grapes (especially on a day that will go down in books as the official start of my FIRST harvest)? We received over 13 tons of two different chardonnay clones. They came in early, and if I may, left very late… The day lasted around 13 hours, from 7am to 8pm, which, I’ve been told is relatively tame for any harvest day. Though for me it was the perfect start… I got to marvel at the sheer quantity and quality of fruit brought to the property. I got absolutely soaked, several times I should note, in juice, water, sweat, and more juice throughout the day. I ate my first freshly picked chardonnay grape and took part in my first, ‘famous’ Montelena Harvest lunch. (It lived up to all the hype, fantastic actually… lasagna, salad, garlic bread, fresh fruit, and a dangerously tasty fudge brownie. All consumed in about 15 minutes. They say you are supposed to lose weight during harvest, but at this rate, I’m not so sure… 167 and counting.) The day however seemed to move at a feverish pace, for as quickly as it started, looking back, the ending was quite similar (bike ride through the vineyards to our lovely home on Old Toll). Tomorrow is another day. Can’t wait!

Best from Montelena.

Life is clean. Life is beautiful. Life is pure.


Daniel Orrison

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