As predicted, the beginning of harvest week for us started with bottling all the 2013 Chardonnay. As a small, family owned winery, most of the bottling is done in house and only very large lots require a bottling truck company. We finished up in two days bottling nearly 500 cases of wine and we were ready for vintage 2014 to begin!
When determining when grapes are ready for harvest there are three major factors involved. The first factor is the varietal. Chardonnay and Pinot noir have a shorter ripening time than Cabernet Sauvignon, for example. The second factor that determines the time necessary for ripening is where the grapes are planted. Vines on slopes at higher elevations ripen more quickly than vines planted on flat valley floor or on slopes at lower elevations. The last, and most definitive sign of ripeness and the date of harvest, is the winemaker's decision. Winemakers have many different parameters to consider in determining if a particular vineyard, or block of a vineyard, is ready to pick. This is influenced by the sugar level and the taste of the grapes, the signs of physiological ripeness, such as the color of the seeds, and also by the style of wine he or she is making. Sparkling wines are made from grapes that would be much too under ripe for making a bigger, bolder style of wine.
Harvest began for us on a foggy morning that turned into warm sunshine as it often does in these valleys. The first grapes to come in were the younger vines of Pinot noir from the estate vineyard. The next day it was Chardonnay from a neighboring vineyard. In the Russian River AVA, things are ripening a week or so earlier than usual, probably due to the consistent warm temperatures for most of the summer. Yields are quite high again as they were for 2013. There is some speculation that this may be due to the drought, but no one knows for sure. The Pinot was especially beautiful with perfect small, dense clusters. Harvest is a lot of work, but it is an exciting time too!