Monday, September 27, 2010

'Sorting it Out' at Merryvale!

Today is the beginning of the Cabernet harvest for Merryvale. Although we have been harvesting our Pinot noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and some of our Chardonnay, today is the first pick of Cabernet Sauvignon!

We harvested three small sections of our St. Helena Estate vineyard, which is an early site for Cabernet and normally gets harvested shortly after Labor Day! We picked a tiny block of Cabernet Franc, and two lots of Cabernet Sauvignon.

All of our St. Helena Estate Cab gets picked into 25-pound boxes and transported down the hill in these boxes. Then the grapes go through a gentle but rigorous sorting process and are gravity fed into tiny 2 to 5 ton tanks that were designed for this vineyard.

Since Merryvale remodeled the cellar in 2006, we have the fortune to not only have beautiful tanks designed for the vineyard, but we also have the latest in sorting technology. The bins are gently unloaded onto a table conveyance, where we have four people to remove any leaves and any clusters with shrivel or other imperfections. Then we de-stem, but do not crush, most of our Cabernet.

After the destemmer, the grapes pass along the Le Trieur sorting table. This table removes raisins, shot berries, and pieces of stem by shaking the berries along the table over a screen that causes undesirable material to fall below and be removed from the process before the fruit gets to our third sorting device.

The final sorting device is called Le Mistral, named after the famous strong, cold and usually dry regional wind in France, coming from the north or northwest, which accelerates when it passes through the valleys of the Rhone and influences the ultimate character of wines from this region. Le Mistral sorting device uses the force of air currents to separate the good grapes from material other than grapes (MOG) and imperfect berries. A stream of air, an air blade, blows away light debris including pieces of leaf and stem, and shot or raisined berries.

The outcome of such a slow and thorough process is pristine whole-berry fruit in the final bin that then gets gravity fed to tank in a very delicate manner. We believe that his helps deliver the purest expression of our vineyard. Cheers!

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