The Final Day of Harvest 2014

November 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

November 5th, 2014

Today we pick the last lot of grapes – a late harvest Vidal Blanc from Catesby Vineyard.  That marks 37 separate picks for the season, and over 60 sublots of wine either fermenting or now aging in our cellar.  It’s been our largest harvest yet (not to mention our longest, running from September 1st until today, November 5th), and the quality of fruit has been fantastic.  It’ll be a bit sad to see these fermentations end.

We finally got our act together and made harvest shirts!

We finally got our act together and made harvest shirts!

The 2014 vintage in Virginia will likely be marked by several things: (1) the vine damage caused by the unusually cold temperatures in the late winter, (2) fairly wet but healthy Spring and early Summer, (3) a coooooooool late summer leading into fall, keeping ripening at a moderate pace but also allowing for a better alcohol / ripeness / acidity balance than we generally see in Virginia, and (4) some wonderful weeks in September and October that allowed for a full (albeit late) ripening of all varieties.  Additionally, at Sunset Hills, it will be marked by hail damage that we received at Shenandoah Springs on July 2nd.   This did not affect any final wine quality but did affect our yields.

Viognier, Estate Vineyard #1

Viognier, Estate Vineyard #1

The whites came in, for the most part, spread out over all of September.  Fruit quality here was exceptional, with very ripe flavors and moderate must weights, which is especially important for our Viognier blocks and some of our smaller-berried Chardonnay clones.  Thanks to the great weather we were able to pick at a (relatively) moderate pace and were not forced into any speed pickings, which allows for great quality control both in the vineyard and cellar.  We tried a number of new things this year: further experiments with press wines, more barrel fermentations, cordoning off vineyard blocks into sub-blocks, et cetera.  We tend to get a little geeky.

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Laying out Vidal Blanc clusters for drying – a new experiment this year.

The only snag in harvest was a huge rain on October 15th, which we chose to avoid as much as possible by bringing in the bulk of our Cab Franc and Petit Verdot just prior to.  Anything hanging after that was in it for the long haul and, thankfully, paid off immensely – the last week of harvest we found ourselves picking uber-ripe Cabernet Franc from our estate, with a density and extraction more akin to that of 2010 (although these grapes got to those end points in much different ways), as well as some blockbuster Petit Verdot.  We will have a wide range of styles for our reds – ripe and fruit forward with moderate alcohol, and big, dense, and masculine.  Blending will be very important.

Pumping over a bin of Cab Franc.

Pumping over a bin of Cab Franc.

Today, the last day of harvest, we are picking our late harvest Vidal.  This is a wine we’ve attempted to make every year since 2009, but unfortunately have succeeded at only twice (2009 and 2010), because we sometimes struggle to get enough noble rot in our vineyards.  This is the longest we’ve ever let Vidal hang and I’m very excited at the level of botrytis and ripeness within the vineyard.  We will be pressing tomorrow and then will get a better idea of whether it was a success.

Traminette vines in the fall - just before the leaves drop

Traminette vines in the fall – just before the leaves drop

Today, though, is a bit bittersweet for me.  I’m glad to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to have my weekends back, to enjoy the fall in Virginia, but I’m also always sad when we finish.  Luckily, we’ve got our work cut out for ourselves in the elevage of these wines, so really it never stops.

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