The 2016 Harvest Recap

With August, September and October behind us (wow, it is November already isn’t it?) the harvest operations are beginning to wrap up. I finally realized how crazy it had been over the last few months after getting a full nights sleep on November 6th. Honestly I haven’t felt more rested since…I don’t know when!  That’s the fun that this season provides!

In all honesty it is an immense amount of fun. There is always a “breaking point” where you have to decide to stop being tired and just keep going. The harvest season is always a challenge, it is exhausting and you also get to dive into the most exciting parts of winemaking (at least I think so). When those first grapes make it out to the winery you officially get to dive into the science and artistry of things. There is always a new twist or turn that you get to work through to ensure the wine you are making stays consistent. This year in particular provided me some interesting challenges, but with those behind me it is time to look back and see how it all went down.

Harvest officially started for MTGA on September 9th. Prior to that there were quite a few vineyard check-ins with my growers to look at quality, yields and just to catch on the growing season. With the little bit of expansion that I am working on this year I think this might be easier to break down by varietal, so let’s do this thing!

IMG_1215Pinot Noir
The first lots to come get to the winery on Septmeber 9th were two different clones: 777 and Pommard. There were two more picks on September 23rd and another on September 26th for two more lots of Pinot Noir (667 and 115 clones respectively). Pinot does have a bunch of different clones that can provide different characteristics and attributes soI jumped at the opportunity to use a few different clones to satisfy my inner mad scientist come blending time. With the three different picks each clone’s fermentation was kept separate and pressed off at different times. With all of the lots now in barrel they are going through the secondary fermentation to smooth out the acidity. After a couple more months I will be looking into the barrel aging program to decide how this year’s Pinot will spend its time aging.

Also on September 23rd all of the Merlot came in as well to make for a very long night and day between St. Helena and Bennett Valley (just outside of Santa Rosa). Frankly the Merlot could not have been in better condition. To create a couple different lots out of the three tons that came in a couple of different yeast strains were utilized for fermentation and the Merlot was placed in larger bins rather than tanks. Not quite “open top” fermentations but definitely not sealed. After a little over two weeks the free run juice was extracted from the bins before the remaining grapes were put in the press to squeeze out the remaining wine. Now in barrel the Merlot will age for 20-24 months. For the aging side of things I always opt to keep the free run lots and pressed lots separate for the aging process; this will give me some more options for blending come bottling time.

This was the oddity this year because the Riesling was the last thing to be harvested. “Normally” you see white wine grapes come in earlier, especially if you are looking to make something crisp and refreshing. Nevertheless the Riesling arrived at the winery on October 1st. After sampling the vineyard  multiple times to get an idea of when to bring in the Riesling I honestly thought I was going crazy or doing something wrong. As it turns out that wasn’t the case (thank goodness) and the Riesling just needed more time to get where it needed to be. Once pressed the juice went right into small stainless steel barrels for fermentation. It has been a cool and slow fermentation process to keep the Riesling as bright and fresh as possible. It wasn’t until October 20th that all of the barrels had just about finished up and are now resting peacefully.

While I have been able to catch up on sleep there is still quite a bit to be done! The 2016 Riesling and 2015 Pinot Noir have a bottling run in the their future. The 2013 Merlot and Single Barrel are still making their way out into the world. Long story short there is never a boring day.


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