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Nine months out of the year, harvest is visible on the horizon but it comes into better focus during the summertime. Even though the vines go dormant over the winter, work behind the scenes never stops. From the fall ferments, to the mid-winter bottling, and eventually the April bud break, there’s a steady swing to day-to-day life in the winery. Then, all of a sudden, we’re crossing off the last few days of August — it’s time to make some wine. Did we prepare enough? Are all of our ducks in a row? We’d like to think so. But no matter what, the vines are about ready to bring us an exciting eight-week stretch.
(Bird's-eye view of Trisaetum Winery on Ribbon Ridge)
The word ‘exciting’ has a thousand meanings over the course of harvest. Some days it's a labor of love. Other days the reward is more obvious. But in spite of the time crunch, let’s face it, we get to pick, ferment, press and bottle our grapes. Not a bad gig. These are guaranteed to be the busiest weeks of the year. They’re also guaranteed to be the most memorable.
(Stephen filling barrels in the cave)
Tuesday of this week, the full-time cellar crew and our harvest interns — all six of us — met in the lab to sample clusters of Pinot and Chardonnay from our Ribbon Ridge estate. We wanted to size up the grapes, and measure the sugar, pH and acid levels from four separate vineyard blocks. The sample clusters were crushed into juice, and we also checked the consistency of a few whole grapes to develop a timeline. Using a spectrum of palette descriptors ranging from “green banana” to “cherry” to “blackberry” the consensus landed right between strawberry and rhubarb. Tasty? No doubt. But the challenge comes with choosing the best harvest day for a particular grape clone. If we pick too early, the flavors aren’t there yet. If we pick too late, we’ve lost the acidity that adds life and vitality to our wine. As usual, time is a balancing act.
(Our dog 'Brix' gives final Chardonnay approval)
The spectrometer confirmed our palates’ opinions of the Chardonnay. Acid had a leg up on sugar, and was just where we wanted it for sparkling wine. The call was made and we decided to pick a little fruit for Blanc de Blanc on Thursday — just three days apart from when we harvested the same blocks for sparkling wine last year. At 6:15 a.m. it was just light enough, so we started picking. By 8:00 a.m. the press was full and harvest was officially underway. There's already a new fizz happening in the cellar.
(Pinot cluster in the sun)
As for the Pinot? Clusters were re-tasted on Friday. We’ll give it a little more time on the vine — a few more days of hang time should bring the flavors closer to our target. We suspect by the middle of this week we’ll be picking the first Pinot Noir of harvest.