“Wine is sunlight, held together by water.” Galileo Galilei
My yearly tradition, is to travel to a different wine region to observe the grape harvest. Last year I was fortunate to be in Tuscany for la vendemmia, and this year I chose my all-time favorite Russian River Valley in Northern Sonoma County to observe the harvest. There’s something magical about harvest time. There’s a sweetness in the air of the grapes hanging on the vines and a musical trill of the grape press as it hums along. It’s a time of high energy, camaraderie, bustle and communion with nature in the vineyards, but it can also mean anxiety, sleepless nights, anticipation, relief and ultimately, jubilation for the wine maker.
Depending on who you talked to, wine makers had various opinions as to the projected quality and yield of the 2017 grape harvest. Wild weather conditions this year brought relief from the severe drought with heavy winter rains, which submerged vineyards in low-lying areas, an early Spring bud break and late Summer temperature heat spikes which ripened the grapes sooner than usual. And then there was predicted rain during harvest, again, unusual. All this, and more, make for interesting wine fodder around harvest time.
Harvest Moon Winery owner and wine maker extraordinaire, Randy Pitts, greeted me with a big smile and a paper cup of his freshly pressed Pinot Noir. Optimistic as always, Randy was pleased with the harvest so far, although there were still grapes to be hand-picked in nearby vineyards and much work to be done.
Randy explained that night harvesting was commonplace in Russian River Valley. Harvesting at night when the temperatures are cooler, helps to maintain the acidity in the grapes, which in turn, delays oxidation and spoilage before the grapes get into the winery for processing.
Indeed, it truly was an eerie sight to see the dim sea of headlamps and blazing tractor lights dotting the vineyards in the late night and wee morning hours.
There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes at harvest time, and getting the grapes to the winery production pad is only the first step. Here’s to a great 2017 harvest and amazing future releases! www.harvestmoonwinery.com