Time to take a deep breath (hard to do with this mask on), relax a bit and assess the harvest 2020. Harvest time is inspirational and exhausting all in one big two-month mind and body expanding package.
Actually, it is hard to separate out exactly what harvest means; it always seems like the rest of the year is either a big lead up to harvest or dealing with the results of the harvest.
From inspecting the vineyards and working with growers to trying to make the best grapes possible, to cleaning the grape bins and tanks, to running analysis on the wines, racking, topping and finally bottling, it is one continuous cycle of winemaking that never seems to stop. Indeed, since we now have wines in the barrel from both 2019 and 2020 vintages (and even some 2018 Solesce and 2014 Opulento), multiple vintages are pulling the winemakers in many directions at a given time. OK, OK, let’s focus on what happened this year the grapes were coming in the door.
We had a good one, no major hic-ups, no one was injured, no serious breakdowns in equipment, the crew was excellent and overall things went smoothly. And, by the way, we made some really good wine! Harvest started a little ahead of schedule with Syrah and Tempranillo from the warm site of Stone Tree coming off on the 3rd of September. That was well before Labor Day which was late this year on the 7th, so no extended summer vacations for the harvest team.
From there, grapes came in steadily until October 24th when the last of the Sangiovese was plucked from Solstice Vineyard, just as a big freeze was arriving in the state, pushing all the winemakers to finish up. Overall quantity was down, partly because we cut back a bit this year but also because the crop was smaller than normal. In the end, we brought in 106 tons of grapes, just over half of which was for Brian Carter Cellars and the balance was used for our custom-crush clients.
Reducing the harvest down turned out to be a good policy, in part because we were not able to crush as large a quantity of grapes per day as we normally do. This is because we had to ‘social distance’ on the ‘JACK’ picking line. We used plastic screens to separate the crew which meant there just was not enough space to have as many personnel and, as a result we had to run more slowly and crush less tons per day.
Fortunately, there never seemed to be a big rush, things got ripe in an orderly fashion and I was able to keep on top of my trips to the vineyard, walking the rows, tasting the grapes, bringing back samples for analysis and making keen decisions on when to harvest. Overall conditions in the vineyard were pretty optimal this year, with very few really high temperatures that could have caused much sunburn or burned up acidity, but with plenty of heat units for the size of the crop, allowing everything to ripen up on schedule.
These more moderate temperatures optimized both fruit character in all the grapes and color in the red grapes. The resulting wines have plenty to offer. Some really good varietal characters, excellent balance, and dark colors in the reds. Of course, we are still assessing the quality, but the whites and the rosé wines are particularly exciting along with Tempranillo.
We started the first post-malolactic rackings at the begining of December, and we were done by the end of the year which it was a great head-start. Now will be time to start getting Oriana and Abracadabra Rosé ready for bottling. Then there is my favorite time of the year when I get to start blending the 2020 wines. The cycle continues…
Drink some great wines this season. Stay Safe. Hope to see you soon.