After a grueling 12 weeks (well really 8 weeks if you really get down to brass tacks) we are finished. A week ago we received our last fruit. It was fast, hurried and at some times very scary as we just barely squeezed all the fruit in the door. Tank space was at a premium and there were days when we didn’t see space for the fruit two days ahead of us but it always managed to work out. Now we’re just going through the remaining fermentations and macerations and deciding when to press.
In the winery, everyday there are baskets of spent skins waiting to be pressed. The basket presses themselves are working hard, a reflection, of the fast intake of fruit 25-35 days ago.
It will probably be mid-November before all the tanks are pressed and all the wines are put to rest in barrels for the next few months while we turn our attention to blending the 2012 Cabernets and beginning the blending of the 2013 Pinot Noir. A calm has settled over the winery now. One which I hope will continue for the next few months until bottling season comes next spring.
I snapped this quick photo of one of our vineyards this week while I was quickly trying to get to see all of them. Long story short, almost all if them are ready. After the rain last Saturday, the weather turned mild and breezy which quickly dried everything out. That first rain ( 1/2 inch in Oakville) really helped dust everything off and refresh the vines. Now they are forecasting a second shower this upcoming Sunday evening. We spent this week brining in as much fruit as we reasonably had tank space for even before the threat of a second rain was realized. The quality still looks fantastic and I remain highly optimistic about the vintage. When one is in the thick of it, as we are now, there is only one thing to do. Hang on for the ride. The middle of harvest I imagine is kind of like surfing (having never surfed myself this has no basis in personal experience). You’re being pushed along by a force greater than you can control and you can either ride it or be pummeled by it. Working long hours most days of the week, I find myself running on pure adrenaline most days. Add that to the occasional rough nights that my 11 month old’s teething causes and you have one exhausting mix. There are so many details to remember at this point during the winemaking process that the only way I have found to stay organized is by carting around at least 7 clipboards and a 3 ring binder in a bag everywhere I go. It’s heavy but it works. What do I need them for you ask?
1) Binder full if vineyard maps
2) Recent Brix analysis
3) Tonnage estimates by block
4) 3 day harvest schedule
5) Today’s harvest instructions
6) Analysis and additions ordered for tanks already crushed.
7) Tasting sheets for the juices and fermentors.
In short, all the information I would need at any given point in the day. I am convinced that you can not make wine without clipboards. Surviving harvest is all about organization and I think I have a system worked out that will allow me to surf this wave if fruit all the way to the end. Week 8 is halfway!!!
This week we brought in quite a few of our Reserve blocks of Cabernet and numerous other blocks of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It looks as though the first big wave is over and at this point it seems that the “R” word is being seriously considered for this Friday night. That is right, rain is in the forecast. This year, however, unlike 2010 and 2011 we are not waiting for Brix to reach 24 praying that they will rise post rain. This year most every vineyard that we are sampling is already above 24, some are even higher This year I can enjoy the rain and the pause that it brings in the craziness without worrying that it is the beginning of the end of harvest. The wines that are in the tanks now look amazing. The colors are high, flavors ripe and concentrated and tannins soft and supple. I’m so excited about what we are seeing. It’s a great year to be starting at Robert Mondavi!