Man, it smells good around here! And, well it should. If you check our harvest calendar, you can see why. It’s been non-stop since harvest started on August 24. The sweet aroma of all that fermenting juice, happily bubbling away, is positively addictive. The Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cab, Viognier and Merlot have all conspired together to form an ambrosial and heady symphony of fragrance as you walk through our very hosey crush pad. There’s absolutely nothing like it!
But, I guess it wouldn’t be harvest without some kind of calamity. Last year, it was the recalcitrant crusher-stemmer, slacking on the job. This year’s top war story (so far) can be credited to a higher power: PG&E! Just as things were humming along nicely with the Viognier crush last week the power went out in most of Yountville for several hours and everything grinds to a halt. !*%#%#!!! I’m glad I wasn’t there to hear the actual dialogue!
So, you eat some lunch, thinking the power will be back any minute. Nada. You make some phone calls to try to find out when the power will be back. No help there. Geoff Gorsuch, our Winemaker, came to the realization that there was nothing to do but store the grapes in the cool cellar and wait for the power to come back. I suppose they could have tried a little old-fashioned foot stomping in place of the modern press but, hygiene aside, it’s a tad-bit inefficient. It would probably take much longer to stomp 6 tons – not to mention the sticky mess (pressing whites is a whole different game than pressing reds – yuk!) – than it would to just pray for power and pick up where you left off. So, he and the crew took a powder, then did what most cellar workers spend most of their time doing – cleaning – and prayed. Crushing and pressing by moonlight may sound romantic or perhaps even vaguely Biodynamic, but it’s a major pain in the tuckus on a day that started before sunrise. Power resumed, as did the very welcome whirring sound of the crusher-stemmer, around seven o’clock.
Even discounting the above, it’s been crush-and-a-half, so far. After bragging about our lovely, mild temperatures in my last entry, the last days of August and first days of September were just a wee-bit warm – thus, the onslaught. For a small operation like ours, this is a fairly frantic pace, crushing nearly every day. The white days are the longest with a quick crush followed by a long press cycle and a quick crush followed by a long press cycle… There’s no way to speed it up. You just have to down a lot of energy drinks and hang in there. Reds go quicker, with the crushed grapes going straight to the tank from the crusher-stemmer.
So, the bad news is that it’s been exhausting and we’re low on tank-space and the good news is the gorgeous perfume wafting out of those tanks. It’s cooled down beautifully over the last several days and Geoff’s really glad to see that the grape sugars have actually gone down a bit (rehydration), which will buy him some breathing space and, more importantly, extend the hangtime in those vineyards.
As he was wrapping up pressing the Chardonnay last night he somehow managed to look bushed and energized simultaneously. He’d been sampling the tanks, as he does every day, and is loving what he smells and tastes. “Great color. Great flavor intensity. Nice balance. This is looking like a really good crush.” He’s a man of few words, but I think that gets it pretty well.