Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Day 1 of harvest came after Labor Day (a rarity for us) with the arrival of just over 5 tons of Sauvignon Blanc from Oakville Crossroad Vineyard. We will produce 350 or so cases of SB, which is down from the 800 cases we made in 2008. Also during week one, we brought in some Tempranillo and Grenache from Mike Naggiar's Vineyard in the Sierra Foothills. Beautiful, ripe, and tasty, these two reds were pressed off skins and are now in barrel (See Miner's first post, our amateur video of Tempranillo going to barrel).
All of our Viognier from Simpson Vineyard has been brought in: 75 tons this year and down from the 100 tons in '08. Fueled by Rutherford Grill ribs and cornbread, our fierce night shift crew (Wes, Ben, and Gabrielle) pressed Viognier until the wee hours (think 3am) for six consecutive nights. We barreled down some of our Viognier but the majority is slowly fermenting in tanks. After being kept at finger-numbing temperatures, our Rosella's Vineyard “777” Pinot Noir has now started to ferment in half-ton bins in our warehouse. A whopping 325 cases worth of Carneros Pinot Noir from Sunset Vineyard came in this year - an indication that vineyard yields would be up,and indeed yields look like they are up across the board for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Case and point, our first block of Chardonnay to come in from Stagecoach Vineyard yielded 33% more than last year and Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay in Carneros also came in with yields above average. We will have plenty of top notch Chardonnay to go around this year and we're planning on doing 3 vineyard designated Chardonnays: Hudson, Hyde and Genny's Vineyard.
We brought in just over 5 tons of Marsanne from Stagecoach Vineyard last week for our La Diligence bottling (a partnership with Domaine Francois Villard/Rhone Valley, France). As for Napa Valley reds, it's looking like they will be ripe soon and we will be prepared for an onslaught in the next week as Cabernet Sauvignon yields are likely to be high.
The winery is starting to smell good as we approach the harvest '09 half-way mark with around 250 tons in so far. Until next time, when we come up for air... or beer
Winemaker, Miner Family Winery
Monday, September 28, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Finally, we've actually picked some fruit! Now, for me, it's officially started as we've received our first small lot of cabernet sauvignon.
And, to show some girl-power, please see the photos of yours truly, in the green sweatshirt and Maundra, the wife of one of the part time workers, in the hat, as she and I cut clusters from the vines in Rutherford early this morning. The green netting was used to dissuade birds from helping themselves to the luscious, ripe berries.
The fog didn't lift until we were done, so the two hours from 7am to 9am were just cool and wonderful - great, grape picking weather.
Now I feel like I have a right to be tired!
Our total, .92 tons of cabernet which will make it into the Bentley program (not even the 2007 vintage is released!).
Every vintage I feel like I learn a heap of things in such a short space of time. This is my fifth vintage so far and I feel like I should be blowing out candles and cutting cake! Well, I did just celebrate my 23rd Birthday so I must be just still in the mood but I think it should be celebrated when you get to your fifth vintage and still feel the itch for fruit to come in and the excitement of the first load of fruit pulling up on the back of a flat bed.
The more I learn about wine, the more I don't know! After 3 years of studying it for my Bachelor's degree back home in New Zealand, and 5 years in the industry abroad, I still feel like a spring chicken intern. I know I could setup a pumpover in my sleep, and often have the odd haunting nightmare of broken hydrometers scattered around the cellar. I asked my boss Sally if she could interpret the dream for me and I think she was spot on: "I think you're bored and itching for vintage to start."
A very wise woman said to me recently: Be patient, and enjoy the beauty of it. Patience is a virtue; one that I clearly am lacking. We have been waiting patiently for these grapes to peak to their tastiest, and its already officially Fall! I'm reading all the blogs about crazy long hour days and juice splattered interns. Right now I feel like I hardly even deserve my beer at the end of the day.
But to be patient, is to spend a lifetime in the wine industry, knowing I will never know all there is to know about wine. Which is exactly what I intend to do. On my vintage experiences around the world I have learned that in order to survive a vintage:
- Look after your feet
- If you're hungry - EAT something!
- Always find time to laugh
- Why try harder when you can try easier? Keep it simple... stupid.
- Even if you're a 23 year old girl from New Zealand, don't feel like you have to prove yourself.
- The best way to earn the trust of your new work mates... is to feed them.
- Do not underestimate the value of communication!
I intend to keep you updated on my experience of this wonderful winery so stay tuned. You most definitely need to check out Daniel Orisson's amazing blog entries for Chateau Montelena and I also have my own personal blog called Eno Files - everything you don't want to know about wine! at http://harvesthopper.blogspot.com/
Photos are to come!
Buona Vendemmia! (Have a good vintage in Italian)
(Little Kiwi Intern)
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Time goes by like a race horse runnin', open up the gates, she takes off
--"Race Horse Runnin'", The Nickel Slots
Everybody, everybody, let's get into it.
Get it started, get it started, Get it
--"Let's Get It Started", Black Eyed Peas
The horses are at the gate...and they're off!
Today we finally got things REALLY under way. I've got to keep this post brief as it's 6pm and I still have to press 7 ton of Chardonnay fruit tonight.
I'm ecstatic with the quality of the Chardonnay we picked today. Tomorrow we jump into Merlot and will probably finish Merlot for the season. Cabernet is not far behind.
We celebrated a blessing of the grapes today, officiated by long time family friend and minister, Pastor Ted Muller. The sound is a little low, and it's typical Andy Shaky Cam, but video below.
--Andy Schweiger, Winemaker, Schweiger Vineyards.
The Zinfandel will be our next project, hopefully ready to harvest by the start of next week. Zinfandel can be infuriating – uneven ripening will have some berries puckering into raisins while others in the same cluster still taste tart and bland. We watch the canopy and sigh with forced patience as we wait for the slowpokes, worrying over dehydration and willing the vine to get its act together. It always does, eventually.
The mornings are growing progressively colder, there are more oak leaves in the driveway than there were last week, and the valley glows in that special way made possible only by slanted autumnal sunlight. The other morning I arrived at work just in time to watch the sunrise. The pale sky above me was dotted with hot air balloons at staggered altitudes, some close enough to see small faces peering over the edge of the baskets. Though I sometimes wonder if what I do for a living is the best or the worst way to enjoy my favorite season, at that moment the answer was unquestionably clear.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
That was about ten days ago and those crews were the first wave, picking grapes bound for sparkling wine. However, now those first ripples are getting ready to turn into a tsunami of harvesting as the Napa Valley gets ready for the main event: the Cabernet Sauvignon harvest. There has been scattered activity around the valley as first the grapes for sparkling wine and then some of the white varieties were harvested. We picked the grapes for our Cornerstone Sauvignon Blanc early last week, in perfect conditions. This was our first harvest of Sauvignon Blanc from the Talcott Vineyard just outside of St. Helena (not too far from Taylor's Refresher), so I was out there at first light to watch the pick. It never ceases to stun me how hard the picking crews work. None of what we do could be possible without them. Every time I watch a harvest crew in action I realize that few of us could survive a half-hour, while these crews work at breakneck speed hour after hour until the mid-day sun forces the picking to a merciful end.
Tonight our new Sauvignon Blanc is slowly bubbling away in a cold stainless steel fermemter, while the pickers themselves sleep the sleep that only exhaustion can bring as they prepare to hit the vineyards tomorrow before the morning light illuminates the seemingly endless rows of vines waiting for them. Today we scheduled the pick of our Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon for this coming Tuesday and our Oakville blocks will be right behind. It's going to be a busy two weeks for us, but it's nothing compared to the ultra-marathon our pickers have already embarked on.
Fortunately, the heat was not as intense as originally forecasted, and the highs are only sustained for a short part of the afternoon. Forecasts are for a return to seasonable or below average temperatures beginning early next week. That will likely slow down the ripening in the remaining Cabernet blocks.
This morning we harvested small portions of two blocks of Cabernet from the Schlatter Family Estate in St. Helena. Attached is a pic of a few lug bins in the back of the truck.
The grapes looked great and since the 18th we’ve brought in some more Sauv. Blanc and a bit of Chardonnay, and everything is looking and tasting great. Reds are now our next target with Pinot Noir leading the way; yes I said Pinot Noir, it’s a small project we do from grapes we grow at about 1600 feet elevation that surprisingly produce some lovely Burgundian like Pinot. We’re also looking at some Merlots that are on the edge of being ready.
The winery is getting that wonderful CO2 fermentation aroma which means harvest is really under way so stay tuned as the fun has just begun!
Spring Mountain Vineyard
We have officially joined the Harvest hum that has been buzzing around the Valley for a few weeks with our Pinot Noir. Picked in the wee hours yesterday morning at the deLeuze Family Vineyard in Carneros, our incredible team hand-harvested the small, tight clusters of perfectly ripe Pinot Noir grapes.
Walking among the vines in the cool hours of early morning, spirits were up as the vineyard crew expertly snipped the grapes and added them to bins attached to our biodiesel tractor. Once the truck began delivering the grapes back to the winery in Rutherford, the cellar crew got to work in the unrelenting heat of yesterday’s mid-afternoon sun.
As the grapes were loaded off of the truck, ZD staff gathered around to bless the grapes and give thanks for another terrific growing season while raising a glass to the Harvest ahead. We toasted with 2007 Founder’s Reserve Pinot Noir in memory of our Founder, Norman deLeuze, an incredible wine and the perfect foundation for the Pinot Noir grapes. Then it was time to test out the new crush equipment. Chris, our Winemaker, did the honors as he gently dumped the first bin of Pinot Noir grapes into the waiting machine.
Like clockwork, the grapes were deftly sorted and destemmed before being pumped directly into the stainless steel tanks for fermentation. Once in motion, a second truck delivered the remaining 8 tons of grapes and the scent of fruit hung heavy in the air.
Meanwhile, the deLeuze family decided to combine tradition with technology and soon enough a grape stomp was under way! The three siblings stomped, taunted, teased and stomped some more as they battled to see who could make the most juice in the shortest amount of time. With juice flying and stony looks of determination, the race to juice superstardom was neck and neck. Suddenly Robert was ahead by a few milliliters, he stomped faster, pounding those grapes into oblivion, and victory was his.
Looking from feet to juice and back again, he decided against drinking his victory libation, but satisfaction could be seen from ear to ear.
Elyse Chambers, ZD Wines
OK, I know it doesn’t rhyme and isn’t as much fun as what the blues standard refers to, but it sure makes good wine. Night harvesting the chardonnay ensures that we receive cool and plump fruit. The cool temperature is important for minimizing extraction of any bitter flavors, helps the settling process, and means that we use less energy chilling the juice. The more humid night air allows the grapes to recover from any dehydration the previous day, and the firm berries transport better than hot mushy ones – they don’t breakdown as much in the bins, which gets back to the extraction point above.
The other important and too often overlooked aspect of night harvesting is that the conditions are much better for the people doing the harvesting. I know that if I had to run up and down the rows 50 times in long sleeves and pants while carrying a 40 pound box of grapes on my head, I’d much rather do it in the cool morning air rather than the mid-day heat.
Now, I’ve been talking an awful lot about Chardonnay in these last few posts and I don’t want you to get the wrong impression, so you’ll be happy to know that in the last week we brought in the first Cabernet Sauvignon from here on the Estate. We’ve got three little tanks full of some of the blackest Cabernet I’ve ever gotten my hands into. Tremendous color and plenty of great ripe berry flavor to go with it. The first full crop of our Takahashi Ranch Merlot – a blending component for our Napa Valley Cabernet – also came in this week, and it also is showing fantastic color along with some of the best flavor that we’ve seen from Merlot here at CM. If these first few tanks are any indication, this will be a fantastic vintage.
This week we will continue bringing in Cabernet from our Estate vineyards as well as from our Napa Cab growers, and we should be finishing up the Chardonnay within the next 10 days. The first of the Estate Zinfandel is on deck today, so come on by and have a look!
Until next week – Cheers and may you “be with the one you love.”
Scroll down for our intern Daniel's latest post.
Cameron Parry - Winemaker
Harvest Simple Joy
By: Daniel Orrison
Legs, back, arms, mind… tired. Hands, shirts, shoes, socks… stained. Harvest is officially in full swing. Grapes are coming at a faster pace than ever expected while the room for storage is quickly running thin. But away from specifics and onto experience…
I meet a man on my day off (first in 7 days), who took one look at my hands and asked first, ‘how’s harvest going?’ and second, ‘dead yet?’. I laughed at the later part of the question and replied with a modest but accurate… ‘almost’. He then went on to tell a story from his first harvest (he has now worked over 20), and it went something like this: He was young, out of college, ready to take the wine world by storm (sound familiar?), and his boss at the time said “son… this line of work is not pretty, you won’t be tasting wine all day, meeting women or having fun. You will be working, on call, always. Every part of you will hurt at one point and you will wish you were dead, this I promise, especially here.”
Quite a first conversation with your boss if you ask me… Cameron’s first words were much more welcoming.
The boss then said: “Because son, I’ve seen kids like you come and go, and here’s how it’s going to work. After the first week you will think you are tired. After the second, exhausted. And by the third… dead.” I can now honestly say this is a very accurate description of the harvest lifestyle. Days run together, the workload seems impossible, and the word tired takes on new meaning.
However, I feel the old man’s boss forgot a few parts of this story. He forgot to say how much fun you will have along the way (the laughs and memories), how rewarding it is to look back on everything you accomplish each day, how special it is to be a part of a tradition much larger than yourself, and how educational the experience is for anyone who loves wine. Sure, at points we’re tired, but in my eye that’s what makes it so great! The understanding that everyone is tried, everyone’s hands hurt, everyone could use a day off… but still, day after day, year after year, people all over the world wake up to celebrate the ups and downs of harvest. For instance, he didn’t mention that at 10pm, while cleaning presses in the pouring rain, listening to your cellar master, Gilberto, sing ‘life is beautiful’ you will laugh harder than you ever have. He left out how wonderful a feeling it is to put your feet up on a couch after working an 18-hour harvest day (something you can only understand after doing). Or how calming the feeling that surrounds a winery at midnight can be. The small joys, the subtle moments, and the silent “thank you” wine constantly offers its maker that reminds us of how worthwhile what we are doing is. This area, he most certainly forgot to mention. Because harvest, simply and unexplained, is about truth, hard work, discipline and tradition. These words are not to be thrown around, but respected. And while some days may be hard, tough and stressful the final product is worth every scrape… this, exactly, is what makes it so great. It’s not easy and because of this its rewards are not plain -- but amazing, incredible, and transcending (think 1973 Montelena Chardonnay). Or, in my eyes, what makes the industry move round. What excites us each morning to wake up and work hard.
Tasting on my day off. Life is good. Respect the small stuff.
God bless from Napa.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
These grapes are still growing in my vineyard in Calistoga. Last brix measurement was about 25, but seeds and pulp of the grapes still lack maturity. We'll continue to irrigate and let the fruit hang until we see the pulp turning more clear, less green and the grapeseeds become brown.
Soon, but not yet!
So, what better way to enjoy my unexpected down time than to head to the Palace Hotel in San Francisco to join an all-star cast of pro-football players, rock stars (MC Hammer joined me for a quick photo) and politicos (including Willie Brown and Diane Feinstein) in honoring legendary owner of the SF 49'ers Ed DeBartolo, Jr over the weekend? DeBartolo, Jr was inducted into an internal Hall of Fame created by the 49'ers to honor the numerous legends that have emerged from their organization.
Pride Mountain Vineyards, along with a few other exceptional wineries, was invited to pour our wines for the group, which included Steve Young, Ronnie Lott and Jerry Rice. A ceremony was held to induct DeBartolo, Jr, featuring tributes from many luminaries and a serenade from his good friend Paul Anka, who had re-written the lyrics to his classic song, My Way, to commemorate DeBartolo, Jr having done it "Your Way."
All in all, it was a night to remember, and we were thrilled to share our wines with the guests. As my husband and I watched the team trounce Seattle on Sunday, we were relieved to find that the team was in excellent form, even after their night of celebration.
More information about the event can be found on the 49'ers website.
And now, back to the grapes!
Winemaker, Pride Mountain Vineyards
Each harvest represents a collection of stories; stories of the season & the people who made it happen. This, my 36th Napa Valley harvest, has filled me with memories of all those stories. Best of all, watching my grand children “working” & playing in the vineyard & the winery has made me reminisce about my children doing the same. What a wonderful way to raise a family as well as the next generation of grape growers & winemakers!
Our valley is full of second & third generation kids who have been raised the same. For all of the adults, harvest, though joyful, is also a time of chaos, hard work & finger crossing. Yet, for the children it is a magical time of getting up before the sun, having a breakfast of ripe grapes, playing in the picking bins, joking with the vineyard workers, & running through the vines.
Co-Owner & General Manager
One never knows, here at Chateau Boswell, who is going to get first pick but usually it is the wild turkey. Wild turkeys are the great bane of the growers in the Napa Valley, but I am also blessed with resident Pileated woodpeckers, kit foxes, and deer and I would not have it any other way.
As I spend each dusk and dawn patrolling our estate vineyard I am on the search for all of these wonderful creatures enjoying the fruits of our labor. As my husband says who could blame them!? Organically grown grapes from an owner who is willing to share to keep nature’s balance by employing only distress bird noises, irri tape, fencing and radios to deter these stealth creatures from taking more than their share!
Seriously though...this is going to be one of the Napa Valley’s finest vintages; a long growing season with phenological ripeness and for many varietals ripeness without high sugar indexes.
However...as always this is another vintage where quality wines will be made in the vineyard first followed by precision and lack of further compromise in the winery. This was a year of paying close attention to powdery mildew issues, in fact one of the most challenging years for growers...proper timing and a reduction in unnecessary spraying was of the essence. Suckering and leaf thinning were primary and if close attention was paid to just the right balance between canopy management and irrigation conservation the rewards will be significant this year.
What is happening in our facility thus far? A small amount of Chateau Boswell Chardonnay, some Arietta Sauvignon Blanc and Morlet Family Vineyards Pinot Noir and Realm's Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.
Did anyone notice that we did not have the annual blast of high heat on Labor Day weekend?...and how crazy is it that we had rain last week and incredible high heat today. Maybe the sun will get to my hillside fruit before my dear resident poachers?
Happy Harvesting to all and to all a good wine!
Susan Boswell, Owner
Chateau Boswell Winery
Friday, September 18, 2009
A multi-national crew, including our picking and crush crews, many of whom have been with us since we started harvesting in 1994 and crushing at the winery in 2002, assembled to kick off the 2009 harvest. With the experience of our team, including Crush Forman Hugo Hernandez, who has been at Quintessa since the Huneeus family purchased the property in 1989, and Assistant Winemaker/Cellarmaster Benjamin Ochoa, the first few tons came in without a hitch.
The eastern half of the Silverdale South block, just in front of Quintessa along the Silverado Trail, is typically one of the first blocks harvested each year. Saturday, we will move to the interior of the property and pick Lake Terrace Merlot. Our usual 10-14 days between the start of Merlot harvest and Cabernet Sauvignon harvest will be more compressed this year because of the late start and the next few days of high temperatures we're expecting. We'll start Cabernet Sauvignon harvest begin by the end of next week.
At around 9 a.m., we stopped to take a moment to recognize the ritual of the Napa Valley Harvest. Father Brenkle from the St. Helena Catholic Church blessed the grapes and we raised a toast with the entire Quintessa family. As they say, it takes a village...
To get a picture of what harvest around here is really like, take a look at our Harvest Film on www.quintessa.com for a look at picking, crushing, winemaking that features the people and passion behind every harvest season at the winery. Or better yet, come for a visit and see it up close and live. Off we go!
Charles Thomas, Winemaker
So far we are very happy with the condition of the fruit that has come in, especially with our whites (sauvignon blanc and chardonnay). The cool season has left the vines in prime condition and the fruit is in remarkable shape with very little disease pressure or sunburn. Overall, we are seeing good flavors at very desireable chemistry as we have been able to reach a high level at maturity at very modest brix levels.
Looking forward, we expect this trend to continue as the phenolic levels in the red grapes look very good as does the weather outlook. We have spent the last few days assessing our vineyards with regards to their ability to weather the upcoming heat and we are confident that we are well prepared and any impacts will be minor.
Toby Halkovich, Viticulturist
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Our grapes started coming in the beginning of August and the scent of fermenting juice permeates the cellar (and the office, too!). We all know what happens to the juice but what about all the other stuff? Stems, seeds, pulp, skins and goo (collectively known as pomace) that is collected in the large dump bins situated outside the winery?
On a busy day in the vineyard, our crew can pick enough grapes to fill four bins with pomace. Each black "bin" contains about 40 tons of pomace.
What do we do with it? Because St. Supery practices sustainable farming, we try to reduce and reuse everything we take out of the vineyard. These black boxes are trucked back to our family-owned estate vineyard and its contents emptied into our compost 'mini-mountain'. On an average year's harvest, we can turn almost 800 tons of pomace into compost. It takes about 10 months to fully decompose the waste into nutrient-rich compost that is tilled back into the vineyard.
This past year, our vineyard manager, Josh Anstey, brought 2 bins to our adopted school, Valley Oak, to replenish their learning garden. Valley Oak, a continuing education high school is part of the NVV sponsored 'Adopt-a-School' program.
Onward and upward! Looks like some of our Dollarhide Cabernet Sauvignon is coming in early tomorrow morning. More pomace!
Tina Cao, PR/Marketing Manager
St. Supery Vineyards & Winery
If we look at the report from last year, we had already picked all of the above grapes, but we had also brought in Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Viognier and even a block of Cabernet Sauvignon by this time. Waiting is okay, but the danger for the near future could be that everything will be ready all at the same time...meaning the Brix and Acidity levels are at the perfect point we desire for our wines. That can be an issue because there just are not enough hours in the day to pick everything at once.
Hopefully the waiting game will be over by this weekend and we can start picking again. First up...Merlot!
Vineyard Manager & Winemaker
From Daniel Orrison - Intern at Chateau Montelena
Things around the winery sure are picking up. Over a 160 tons of Chardonnay has been crushed in the last week alone and several tanks have started fermentation. Workdays have gone from 8-hour shifts to an average of 13... and our (the interns) long weekends spent wine tasting and relaxing around the Valley are officially over. I know, the tragedy! This aside, though, life is good-- actually, life is great. The experience we are gaining is priceless and the work is incredibly rewarding. Our responsibility level has also been greatly increased – which means no more babysitting, constant monitoring, or safety tutorials as the amount work at this time of year simply wont allow. But on to a few things I’ve been surprised by thus far.
I’m amazed at how quickly the circumstances of any particular day can fluctuate. There is absolutely no formula or set of guidelines one can follow if he/she wishes to live the harvest lifestyle. Anything can happen! This week alone two presses have broke down, grapes have shown up late, more have come in than expected, rain has been in the forecast (followed by extremely high temperatures), new machinery needs to be adjusted, and the interns are asking about everything… which undoubtedly takes up precious time. Flexibility is key to any great wine we have been told.
I think it’s safe to argue that the winemaker is today’s version of a Renaissance Man… that is, he/she has to do and know a bit about everything. He must be an engineer (who can fix a press when it breaks on the spot… well done, Cameron), a scientist (concerning the who, what, when, where, why, and how to pick the grapes), a romantic (naturally, due to the nature of the business…), an artist (as a wine is most certainly painted), and a craftsmen (for there is always something’s around the winery that must be adjusted by hand). The position is truly interesting as making wine is the perfect mixture of exactly that – craft, art, and science.
In other exciting news around the winery, yesterday we crushed our first batch of Estate Cabernet. The grapes are MUCH smaller and also more thick skinned than the Chardonnay. Which, for the interns, means much easier to sweep and clan up. We also just received a new sorting table (MOG separator) for the crush pad. I’ve been told this too should make our life a bit easier. Spoiled, I know.
But as Cameron has said, the crew really is coming together as a team. Harvest looks to be picking up more so with the heat wave coming through and things should really start to get interesting. Lunches are better than ever… 2260 pounds and counting.
Up or down? What’s you call?
Best from Montelena,
In the meantime, I had my first, pre-6am day. Let me precede this by saying I didn't get to sleep until 2am last night - I had a kitten problem that pushed last night's plan to much later, and then I couldn't sleep. I had to drive 40 miles to walk a vineyard and deliver bins: stop at the vineyard manager's, then the vineyard, then the warehouse - I had traveled about 80 miles before most of my friends got their first cup of coffee at the office. I sometimes long for those days!
I'll take sugars again this Monday and see what the week's done for us. I'm traveling to sell wine this week, getting in some sales before harvest locks me down in Calistoga.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
It has been a busy week here at Chateau Montelena since the last post. As of yesterday we have processed 160 tons of Napa Valley Chardonnay! If it sounds like a lot, it is (for us). The numbers are pretty revealing – last year (2008) we harvested 162 tons of Chardonnay in a total of 11 days, so far this year we have picked 160 tons in 7 days, and we still have 6 of the 12 blocks let to pick! Now, to be fair, it is not just that yields are high this year (they are), but rather that yields were down last year across the north coast due to unfavorable weather conditions last spring. That’s farming for ya! Good news is that we’ll have plenty of great Chardonnay for sale in 2011, bad news is that we all have bags under our eyes from the long days – and it is just the beginning.
The past week wasn’t without its challenges either. We had a mechanical failure on our whole cluster press, which took it out of service for about 2 days while we were figuring out where to get the parts, which then had to be overnighted from Ohio. On a brighter note, we received our brand new custom built post-destemmer-sorter (otherwise known as a MOG separator - follow this link to see a video of it in action), designed to ensure that only grapes (no raisins or stem chips) make it into the tank or press. It is working well, but required a lot of fine tuning to get it just right – Chardonnay can be kinda tricky since it is a thin skinned grape.
The crew is holding up well and really coming together as a team – the great harvest lunches this year have definitely helped. The photo at top right is our pre-season weigh in – 2260 pounds of grape crushing force – a veritable ton of fun! We’re going to get a post season weight as well, so we’ll see just how good the crush lunches really are.
Our intern Daniel Orrison will have his post ready for tomorrow, so check back then.
BTW - Daniel is third from the left in the front row and I'm in the back with the spectacles.
Until next week, cheers!
Cameron Parry - Winemaker
Chateau Montelena Winery
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
While many vintners are busy bringing in their winegrapes, others are on the road and involved in a different staple of harvest season: the promotion of September as California Wine Month.
In the photo above, taken today on the balcony of Grand Central Station, three Napa Valley vintners (left to right: Dick Ward of Saintsbury, Kathleen Heitz Myers of Heitz Wine Cellars, and Suzanne Groth of Groth Vineyards & Winery) pour for invited trade buyers and wine media.
Napa Valley winery promotions of California Wine Month include:
- Consumer, trade, and media tasting in New York City, September 14-16 and September 26
- Consumer, trade, and media tastings in Chicago, September 15-17
- Winery-based events in Napa Valley
Thanks for hanging in there (is this what they mean by “hang time”?)
Spring Mountain Vineyard
Monday, September 14, 2009
Here at Broman Cellars we plan to produce two varietals for this vintage – Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. We just harvested some really beautiful Sauvignon Blanc last week from the Beckstoffer Melrose Vineyard in Rutherford – a whopping 6.1 tons! This is a nice amount of excellent fruit, which will translate to an increase in case production over our 2008 SB. Yippee!
The two vineyards with which we contract, Beckstoffer’s Dr. Crane Vineyard and their Georges III vineyard have some time to go. Our own vineyard on our property is looking to be several weeks away from harvest.
So now we play the waiting game and hope that the weather and Mother Nature cooperate! The rains of these past couple of days were enough to knock the dust down, but not much more.
Lisa Broman Augustine
Director of Sales & Marketing (and everything else!)