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.
The smell of composting pumace fills the valley this morning. Most people assume it’s the smell of fermentation but to my nose it is the spent pumace of the newly created wine. This week has had amazing weather. The fall has been long and warm leading to amazing color and fantastic concentration. I think I can safely say that the average Brix has been right around 26. Those that don’t want high alcohol need to fear not however because sugar conversions have been very reasonable, even low by some standards. Some of our Pinot Noirs are through with Malolactic now and are ready to begin the extended aging process. The quality still looks fantastic! Our cellar is working hard at getting the first year Chai ready to receive the new wines.
The laser they use to line up the bung holes shines on the walls as our crew works to make the cellar look like the immaculate room that everyone sees throughout the year. The first two pictures were taken yesterday. The following from this morning.
Very quick progress which should be finished by the end of the week, right as we begin to press our high end Cabernets. Right now it looks like the final day of harvest will either be Monday or Tuesday next week. It also looks like my hopes of a harvest-free Halloween will be realized this year!
I took this photo from the side of Atlas Peak on my way back from looking at some of our vineyards up there. It reminded me of the Blue Ridge Mountains near my parents home in South Carolina. This year has seen some crazy weather. We just had a second “rain event” during the last period of “unsettled weather” ( I still can’t get over the Californian weather speak) and this week we’ve seen really dry and windy conditions. Humidity below 20% is especially tough for a Southerner. I hate the dry feeling on my skin and in my nose. It’s bad for the grapes as well because dry wind means dehydration for all; winemakers and grapes included. As I see it, the season is now over and it starts to become a triage to pick the most vulnerable fruit first. As I said last week, everything is ready and it’s just a matter to get it all in the winery. Even though I thought last week was halfway, I didn’t realize that we would be completely finished by the end of next week. They are calling for yet another rain event on Wednesday so a tiny bit of the harvest might push into week 11 but for the main event week 10 will see the last large harvest days for Robert Mondavi Winery. My husband, Brian, inspired by my blogging has suggested a partner harvest blog called “Harvest Widow”. Maybe he will be a guest author next year to give the other side of the story. Behind every great winemaker during harvest is a fantastically supportive spouse trying to keep the house from falling apart, the cats from killing each other and the baby fed and clothed.