Once a year we pick grapes. We call it the harvest. In France it’s the “vendange”, in Italy it’s the “vendemmia”. Every year it’s different, every year it’s the same. The vagaries of weather, rain, drought, hot , cold, wind, hours of sunlight, all change every year. Yet, there’s a sense of repetition, going through the motions. It’s Fall and we’re picking grapes again. Our intrepid crew, armed with pruning shears trudges through the vineyard rows in the darkened early morning hours, lights ablaze and snip, snip, snip, pick off the small compact clusters from our chalk-rock challenged vines. By daybreak yellow picking bins brimming with ripe grapes arrive at the winery and the process continues: hand sorting, destemming, optical sorting of individual berries (1st time this year), and onto tank, yeast innoculation and ultimately finished wines to barrel.
2015 was different in many ways. 4th year of drought, early bud break (vines awaken from dormancy, the beginning of growth), cold snap in May during bloom (which interrupted the delicate flowering phase, greatly reducing yields), earliest harvest on record, small berries (more solids than juice, a great omen for wines of density and full flavor), a 1st time purchase of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon from a famous vineyard (to make up for the shortfall of our own reduced crop). This year’s experience reflects the unique micro-climates of our estate mountain vineyards. Bottom line, to be a winemaker you’ve got to love 2 months of sleep deprived babysitting fermenting grapes, stained hands, washing 1000 chemistry beakers, and in general getting down and dirty. Most of us are better off pulling corks and enjoying the fruits of their labor.