With a cool glass of Chimay in my hand (blue label, of course), a fire burning in the fireplace, and
homemade French onion soup on the stove, it seems the appropriate time to reflect upon the 2012 harvest.
To look at this year’s harvest, we’d better start by celebrating the perfect spring. Not only were we spared any frosts, the weather during the budding was relatively warm and constant. The result…every bud pushed, healthy and strong, and almost all at the same time.
Great weather continued into flower in June. Unlike 2011 (where it rained while the vines bloomed), the sun shone brightly throughout flower in 2012, letting the vines self-pollinate profusely. Not too hot, not too cold and not too wet, we could not have asked for a better set!
The summer with its relatively moderate temperatures kept the clusters growing and any mildew at bay.
Now, here’s where I need to break in and explain one aspect of the illustrious wine industry. We expect each variety of grape to bud at a different time and to ripen at a different rate. And most of all, we count on picking different grapes at different times. Harvest “normally” runs for somewhere around 2 months from the beginning of September to the end of October.
Now, back to 2012. Verasion (where the berries start to soften and turn color) proceeded seamlessly. And then the heat came. Temperatures in the mid-90’s kicked all the varieties into overdrive, bringing everything into maturity quickly.
Harvest started for us with Gewurztraminer on September 11, 2012. The multiple lots of Chardonnay followed, giving us just enough breathing room to whole-cluster all the whites (a slower yet better way to press white varieties).
And then the reds started coming in! Day after day, 15 to 20 tons without stop, we crushed and filled tanks. Logistically, we eventually could see the problem of running out of empty tanks to fill. (Imagine that once a tank is filled with pomace (grapes and juice) for fermenting a red wine, that tank is basically “occupied” for 14 days or more). And if we don’t have any empty tanks, we can’t pick!!!
Our saving grace is that our winery is slightly oversized for number of cases we produce each year. With this, we have three 4,500 gallon tanks which I have only used for fermentation once in the last 10 years. In 2012, I actually used these larger sized tanks four times, filling each with 12-15 tons of Zinfandel or Barbera.
The result…we picked everything at maturity, never overripe, having the freedom to make the selections of what we felt was ripe and when. And as balance is the hallmark of our wines, I think the 2012 vintage shows this for each of the varieties.