“How’s harvest going?” That’s the most common question I hear, whether it’s in the tasting room, or my mom bringing apple doughnuts to the crew. Generally, my answer is directly proportional to the number of hours I’ve spent at the winery the previous day times the number of days we’ve worked without a break minus the number of varieties still to be pick divided by average high temperature of the last three days times the percentage chance of rain in the next three days.
Harvest=((hours x days) – varieties)/(temperature – rain)
As of today September 29th, H=((11 x 40) – 12)/(84-50). The answer is 12.588.
One can see immediately that 50% chance of rain this weekend is impacting my answer, but only in that it’s kind of balancing out the fact that I’ve worked 40 days straight. But most importantly, I only worked 11 hours yesterday, which during harvest is considered a “half” day. Pretty clear, huh!?!
To be honest, all these things do matter. The harvest, as work period, is a demanding time when an endless sea of grapes just seems to be coming in. As I get older, I find that my excitement of working the long days is starting to wane, and I’m ready for the last grape to come off when the first one comes in.
And then we have a wonderful harvest like 2016. It started off slowly with small amounts trickling in. The days were reasonable in length (8-10 hours), and the quality superb. As things ramped up, a cool bout of weather would come to slow down the grapes. This lengthening of the season takes a lot of pressure off of all of us, giving us more time to work with our limited amount of tanks as well getting us all home at reasonable hours.
So unlike the last three vintages where grapes were all picked in about 3 weeks, we are being given a more normal 5 weeks picking window to do the job. It’s almost leisurely the way we’ve worked this season, and it’s just Tim, Ryan and myself in the cellar (until John comes up this weekend).
I, however, suspect that our sanity is not so much the answer to this question as is the overall quality and quantity. Starting with quantity, the tonnages are still a bit short, growing out of some of last year’s weather impact in the Chardonnay and Zinfandel, but others are coming in a bit heavy too (Malbec and Riesling).
But quality tastes “off-the-charts”! By in large, the grapes have great acidity this year, partly from a more moderate summer temperature season. This extended season has given us a bit more hang-time, thus giving the grapes a bit more intensity. With all this has come more intensity of color and, as of today, a bit more mid-palate texture.
Taking a snapshot while the wines are fermenting needs to always be taken with a grain of salt. These are living and changing beings, tasting different from day to day. But of particular excitement for both color and extraction, the 2016 Sumu Kaw Vineyards Zinfandel and the 2016 Rucksack Vineyards Cabernet Franc are exceptional!
With another 10 days of harvesting, it all looks pretty good. Our challenge is rain this weekend although even the most delicate-skinned varieties (like Zinfandel) are ready to pick. The cool weather coming up should keep the grapes in check (rather than continuing to ripen rapidly), and we have high expectations for the vintage.
And we’re getting to sleep at night too!
Watch for the final wrap-up of harvest and the crush in the October Shrub Report, taste some new wines at the Harvest Fest in November!