It may be winter and a slow time at the winery, but these quiet moments have been well-earned. Our Cabernet Franc is sleeping in barrels and our Rosé is in tank awaiting to be bottled. But in order to get to this time, there was a roller coaster of harvest decisions.
This post, is a first for us here at Dracaena Wines. It was written by Michael and hopefully gives you a little insight into some of the decisions we need to make during the crucial and fast paced harvest season.
I am driving the afternoon of Oct 13th and my cell phone rings, Joe Plummer (our grape grower) shows up on my caller ID. I left the vineyard the weekend before where the grapes looked great, flavors nearing perfection, the seeds crunchy brown, and analytical results all in line. I think to myself what Joe might want to tell me. Joe asks my thoughts about harvest. I tell him about 1-2 weeks more hang time to harvest our grapes, however I raise my concern about a predicted heavy rain maker about a week away. He voices the same concern and says he will be watching the approaching storm. I start planning my schedule to be available for harvest and calling for grape bin delivery, bin pick-up, and winery processing times over the next 2 weeks. No one raises an issue about timing, Paso and central coast are great.
Oct 17th, my cell phone rings and I look down to see my caller ID with Joe’s name. Joe asks me “Mike what do you think about harvesting tomorrow. The weather predictions are up to an inch of rain in the area.” I think to myself if that much rain falls, we are going to have to delay 3-4 weeks longer until the vineyard dries out and grapes return to normal brix until we harvest. I ask Joe what he hears are the percentages, which he tells me 50/60% chance. I think to myself a few more days of hang time or potentially lose the entire vintage. I decide immediately and agree with Joe, “lets harvest tomorrow.” Joe says perfect, see tomorrow around 06:00 and further tells me that after our pick, the crews are going to run through the rows for any missed fruit.” Picking crews are in high demand this time of year and with weather approaching, Joe takes no risk with his vineyard. Wet vineyards and tractors can destroy vines and irrigation systems leading to expensive repairs. I say good-bye to Joe and immediately scramble to call the winery, making sure they can handle my fruit. If weather is going to break for the worse, everyone is going to rush their fruit in from the vineyard. I am told all good, see tomorrow. The bins are already delivered, and we are good to go. Harvest 2018 is really close now. My excitement builds in anticipation of another Dracaena Wines vintage.
Oct 18th, 04:00 my alarm goes off. Vegas looks at me with bewilderment. I am out the
door by 04:30, grabbing coffee to go on the way to Paso, Vegas alert and wondering where we are going. He loves to go for rides! I arrive on schedule around 06:30, greeting Joe with a hearty hand-shake. The air is crisp (about 35F), a marine layer still visible over the vineyard, and bright lights illuminate our rows, almost as if someone is going to play baseball in the vineyard. The harvest crews are gearing up and tractors come to life with trailers towed behind full of empty bins, ready to be filled with our Cabernet Franc fruit. Harvest is underway.
Tractors drive up one row and down the other, bins now full of grapes. Full bins are dropped near the vineyard scales and empty ones are secured back onto the trailer. Multiple passes up and down our rows, filling bins along the way. Full bins are weighed and labeled with row and clone variety. We keep the clones and rows separated upon entering the winery. Each bin full weighs a little under 1000 pounds. Some years it is light (800 pounds per bin) with a lot of stem and raisins. Other years it is heavy (1200 pounds per bin) with excessive water-logged grapes. This year the vines are healthy and delivering excellent fruit. Harvest ends around 09:30. The sun is up now in a clear blue sky, the temperature remaining in the low 50’s. I call our driver to pick up our bins full of grapes. While waiting I speak with Joe about business and our future partnership together. We both look forward to our future opportunities which is much more than just a business relationship.
The truck arrives to pick up our bins and off we go to the winery for sorting, destemming, and starting our future 2018 Cabernet Franc wines.
*Note, the weather system never materialized with under an 1/8” rain falling south of the vineyard. Mother nature you can trust, weather predictors not so much.