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That was the crush that was!

by David on November 10, 2006

If you’ve been checking our Harvest Calendar, you know that we’ve wrapped up the 2006 harvest by pressing the last of the Estate Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot October 20.

Our Winemaker (my business partner – Geoff Gorsuch), comments “It was a rapid-fire harvest and we’re all tired, but quality looks great. Crop yields were way down from last year, the berries were small and loaded with flavor and we’ve got intense, deep color in the reds. The very mild weather we’ve had this month and last was great for hang-time and allowed for plenty of flavor development without too much sugar. Overall balance looks terrific. We’re thankful to be able to say that it looks like an excellent vintage for us.” Amen to that! It must be quite a feeling when that last grape is crushed. No more worrying about the weather, the sugar, grape maturity… It’s all safely “in the barn” as they say, and this after a year that presented us with floods, late bud-break, a prolonged heat-wave in July and low humidity and high winds in September that whipped up the Yountville fire. Sounds awful, but when you take a step back and look at the growing season as a whole, we had quite a cool growing season overall, almost no rain, even ripening. And we’re mighty grateful!

Some memorable moments from our crush:

  • The tiniest, most exquisite Cabernet you’ve ever seen came down from Howell Mountain the first week of crush – way early, but gorgeous! You oughta see the color on that wine!
  • This wasn’t terribly amusing at the time, but the day our crusher-stemmer broke down (see our entry titled “Just Another Day at the Office”) in the middle of crushing the Estate Cab reminded us of how great it is to have good neighbors and that sometimes the weather actually does what you want. If the darn thing had to break down, it picked the right day and the grapes waited patiently on a very cool day rather than cooking in the sun while we fixed it.
  • Work-addled Erin, Geoff’s worthy assistant, got up at 2:00am, convinced that she’d left a pump running after the last pump-over and drove to the winery in the middle of the night to check it. It was off. All was well. Except sleep-deprived Erin, of course…
  • Geoff had just spoken to the crew about the importance of not taking a restroom break when grapes have been fed into the crusher-stemmer after realizing someone, believe it or not, had begun to walk away for that purpose. Normally the reason to hover over the hopper is to watch for excess leaves or dried grapes, kind of a final sorting. But in the very next load, by following his advice, they caught a wrench just about to go into the crusher stemmer and wreak havoc. Saved us from another break-down! That wrench was taped to the side of the hopper, as a reminder, for the rest of harvest.

There’s still plenty to do, and the sweet aromas of fermenting Chardonnay and Cabernet linger enticingly. Harvest Photo Three
Harvest Photo Four

Now that we’re finished pressing, Geoff can look forward to getting his life back on a more normal schedule as he gets the new wines moved into barrels. The Chardonnay will probably need about 6 months in oak, so you can look forward to seeing it next summer. The reds will take anywhere from 14 to 24 months and during that time Geoff will taste and re-taste to narrow down the almost endless blending possibilities. For instance, he has 4 separate lots of Cabernet from our 10-acre estate vineyard that represent different clones, rootstock hybrids and spacing and consequently have slightly different flavor profiles. Plus he has estate Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot to consider too (he calls the Petite Verdot a “blending Goddess”). Will it all boil down to an Estate Cabernet? Our first Estate Meritage? We’ll keep you posted…

Harvest Photo One
Harvest Photo Two

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