Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Harvest Underway at Trefethen Family Vineyards

The harvest at Trefethen Family Vineyards is well underway! The weather during September has been fantastic adding a great chapter to a pretty mild season. On our estate in the Oak Knoll District, high temperatures for the past thirty days have exceeded 80F on all but five days. In fact, there were nine days that topped out over 90F and we expect a couple more this week. With the long hang time coming from the mild summer, flavors were already well on track and this recent warmth has brought the chemistry into balance - the sugars jumped up a bit and the acids finally began to drop off. What does that mean? It means we're picking! Over the past few days, we have brought in Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay. While some of the blocks of Riesling and Chardonnay will certainly linger a bit longer, we also expect to see our first Merlot this week!

In our quest to make the best possible wine, with the smallest possible environmental footprint, we harvest many of our vineyard blocks in the cool early morning hours, often starting as early as 2:00AM. The air temperature is much cooler at this time and so are the grapes. Last week, when the highs reached 100F, the nighttime lows were still in the 40's! Cool grapes better preserve the delicate aromatics which are vital for our fresh white wines and they are less likely to undergo oxidation before being safely pressed to tank or barrel. There is also a tremendous energy savings at the winery because white wine fermentations are all conducted at cool temperatures (50F - 60F) and even most of our red fermentations begin with a "cold soak". Since our grapes arrive cool at the winery, we don't have to spend the energy to cool them down in tank. Night picking even helps with local traffic issues! When our teams are working a shift from 2:00AM to 10:00AM, that means fewer cars on the road during the rush hour commute. And, lastly, the vineyard crew actually enjoys it. Sure, it takes a couple days to get in the rhythm but we light the vineyard well so they can see the grapes and doing the heavy work of harvest is easier at night compared to working on a hot afternoon.

Now, I'm off to check out the fermenting juice as the first wines are already bubbling away. Cheers to vintage 2011!

Jon Ruel
Director of Viticulture & Winemaking
Trefethen Family Vineyards

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