I am not a morning person. I’m not really sure I’m a night person either. Maybe I’m a midday person! I seem to come into my prime somewhere around 11am. Is there even a word for that? I think I should come up with a term and then trademark it to make some major bucks! Who can help me come up with the word? (I promise to share my future wealth with you!) But at 4am I had a smile on my face.
It was a dark, clear, cool morning in Paso Robles on October 5th when we pulled up to Plummer Vineyards, where our fruit was ready to be picked. The previous week had seen temperatures above 100o and the fruit had ripened. The sugar levels increased, the seeds were brown and the flavors were screaming. Telltale signs that it was time to pick.
Our harvest crew were geared with their clippers and headlamps. We were geared with our jackets and iphone cameras. It was a cool 43o outside and we could see our breath. As they worked their way through the rows, they listened to music and cut the bunches from the vine. We watched on in amazement at their efficiency as we jumped up and down to stay warm. Vegas was relegated to the truck since there were tractors moving fruit from the vineyard to the weighing station and then off to the wineries, but he barked his excitement!
Two hours later we were done with Clone 1. It was now time for them to move to our second block on the vineyard to start harvesting Clone 4. Did I mention that for the 2016 vintage we were expanding to two clones? What’s a clone you ask? Excellent question! A clone is a vine variety that has been selected for specific qualities which result from natural mutations. This will allow us to have two different wines that our customers can choose from, each with their own distinguishing characteristics.
Just as the final grape clusters were being placed in the bins and being carried to the scales, the sun began to rise. It’s a beautiful sight to see the sun rising over the vineyard.
What does a harvest involve? It is an amazing process (but I may be prejudice.) After the fruit is picked, they are placed in bins in the vineyard. This is done for worker payment and is not performed for the official California grape harvest reporting. After the weigh-in, the full bins are loaded onto a truck to be transported to the winery.
Once at the winery, the bins are unloaded and weighed immediately. This weight is recorded and becomes the official California grape harvest and crush report. The bins are then dumped onto a sorting table to remove MOG (material other than grape) and unsatisfactory fruit clusters. The grape clusters are then run through a de-stemmer to remove the stems. At this point our fruit is not crushed. The grapes are transported past an air knife to remove any raisin or severely damaged fruit. The sorted grapes are then conveyed to the fermentation bin. Once this bin is one-third full, several pounds of dry ice and 25ppm of SO2 are added. When the bin is 2/3 full the process is repeated and then once again repeated when the de-stemming process is complete.
The fermentation bins are cold soaked with dry ice (-110oF) for 48 hours before yeast and nutrient inoculation occurs. This process allows for better color extraction. The yeast is then pitched and fermentation begins. As the yeast go through their metabolism, ethanol is produced and carbon dioxide rises to the top. Mechanical punchdowns occur twice a day until the fermentation is complete rendering the wine dry. (no residual sugar)
Once the wine is fermented to dryness, we press the fruit releasing that oh so desired juice! The wine is then move into barrels where they will “sleep” and “evolve” for two years. This wine will ultimately be bottled in the summer of 2018 and released in October of the same year. Another vintage provides another opportunity for passion and another smile. As Robert Mondavi stated Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It’s culture. It’s the essence of civilization and the art of living. And may I am adding, it is what brings a smile to my face. Apparently, Vegas agrees!
Last month Beth of Traveling Wine Chick won the friendly competition known as #MWWC. As with all winners, her prize is to choose the next month’s theme. After her last win (yep, she has won multiple times!) she chose solitude. I guess this time she wanted to take a 180o turn, so she chose Smile. You can head over to MWWCblog.wordpress.com to read all of the fantastic submissions. You can even vote for your favorite!