Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Harvest from Hell

This harvest has been the wildest ride we've experienced. As the record cool season progressed, we got more and more excited about the quality potential--full flavors at lower potential alcohol levels--and then the rain hit. The first few days of cold rain weren't so bad, but the full day of muggy drizzle we got the second time around ignited a grape disease called botrytis. Botrytis is also known as rot, so we worried that the vintage would be lost. We pulled leaves around our grapes to expose the them to more sun, and then, since we are organic and don't have anything much to spray for the disease, watched the weather and prayed. We actually stayed pretty free of disease. Then, last week it dried out and warmed up, slowing the progress of the disease and allowing flavors to come back in the fruit.....some really great flavors. The vintage was back on, and we scheduled our home vineyard to be picked last Friday. 

Separating the Refosco and the Petit verdot
That was supposed to be the end of the drama. But it was just starting. At 6:00 am, we heard a tractor out in the vineyard. The workers had been picking all night at a neighbors, finished early, and came to start picking with headlamps. Only I hadn't showed them where the Refosco, Cabernet franc, Petit verdot, and Merlot were. If our tractor had started up like it was supposed to, they would have mixed all the different varieties together, which would have been a disaster. But luckily, with only one tractor, they started at the other end of the vineyard....this is the first time I've been glad the tractor wouldn't start. 

Luckily the Refosco grapes are much bigger
After carefully explaining which variety is which, a yellow jacket nest exploded out of the ground, stinging all of the workers. The workers ran screaming, stripping off their shirts, while I rolled on the ground smashing the stinging yellow jackets that were on my back and brushing them out of my hair. When the brave few started picking again (a bunch refused to keep working), they forgot about keeping the fruit separate, and it got mixed anyway. We managed to salvage the varieties by hand sorting the fruit back into different bins based on the size and shape of the clusters.

Finally, the old wooden bridge over the ditch separating the forklift and truck from the vineyard gave out while a tractor was crossing it with a load of fruit. Luckily the tractor didn't roll over, and we piled plywood over the gaps to try and finish out the harvest.

When we got the fruit to the winery, the Cabernet franc weighed 666 lbs! Truly the harvest from Hell.

Silver lining: the fermenting wine is awesome--best yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment