The final punchdowns are done and the last of the juice is in barrel. Even the late harvest Sauvignon Blanc is steady and ready for racking.
This year's harvest in California was early, hot and heavy. Due to the lack of rain and the steady warm temperatures throughout summer, everything seemed to ripen quickly and all at once. It was intense at times. The winery was at full capacity for most of harvest, forcing the cellar hands to shuffle bins around just to make room to operate. Work days were long, 8-14 hours at a stretch, and days off were non-existent.
There were only a few mishaps this year but no injuries or fatalities in the winery. PHEW! A few moments for the blooper reel:
- We lost a few gallons because someone forgot to close the press pan valve
- I stopped a rolling barrel full of Cabernet that hopped off the forklift without spilling a drop
- A couple of hose breaks and a new purple paint job for the white walls in the cellar
- One bin full of grapes slid of the truck and dumped onto the ground, as you can see in the unfortunate photo on the right. I imagine there will be a higher level of minerality in that batch...
As for the grapes from each region…drumroll please…
- Napa fruit looked prime. ZERO mildew or signs of botrytis. Very little bird damage or sunburn. These wines will be pristine.
- Lake County fruit seemed to have smaller yields and the berries retained less moisture. While challenging to press, these grapes should yield some great, structured wines.
- Santa Barbara fruit came in with a bit of bird damage yet no signs of mold. Color was dark as night on the Syrah.
- Sonoma Pinot Noir came in early and still was a bit high on brix (i.e. sugar levels). This will lead to finishing higher alcohol levels and very ripe character of the fruit aromas
- Paso Robles was warm and sunny all growing season, leading to full yet balanced ripeness on the fruit we brought in. Very nice grapes all over Paso this year. Zinfandel is tasting mighty fine out of barrel already.
You can expect flavors in 2014 to be very ripe across the board in California. Another great year, and we expect the wines of this vintage will be friendly and approachable in their youth.
Overall, this was an intense, quick, crush season. It’s always bittersweet at the end. The harvest is fun and exciting, and although I’m glad it’s over, I am going to miss the action. Now Nick tells me we’ve got to get busy selling the wine :)