Excitement is in the air, as well as the smell of harvest. We kicked off our harvest early Friday morning with a crew of 10 people picking. The very first grapes we pick are Chardonnay for our sparkling Blanc de Blancs. And to illustrate how everything has come full circle, we just brought in grapes to start the sparkling process again.
Harvest is over and it was a fast and furious one this year. It started earlier than ever and we were done with Cabernet Sauvignon at the end of September which is record early. Now we are waiting to see what El Nino will bring. But before that we have the fun "Wine and Food Affair" festival and we are introducing a new wine and a special recipe to go along.
Harvest has started and you can hear the noise at night and in the mornings and smell it in the air and in the wineries. At West Wines we are in the middle of picking Sauvignon Blanc. All our grapes are harvested manually, most of them at night with the help of big flood lights. The exception is Cabernet Sauvignon which grows in our upper vineyard where it is too steep to bring in lights or try to walk around at night, so we start at the crack of dawn instead.
Almost all of our grapes are harvested now and we are at the end of a long period when I spend a lot of time monitoring the grapes' sugar level. Depending on the wine you make you aim for different sugar levels. I like to pick the grapes at the lower end of typical sugar levels which keeps a little more acidity in the grape and makes for well-balanced wines. However, the most important aspect in deciding when to pick the grapes is still taste. At the end of the day the subjective taste of the winemaker is the most important measurement.
Time for change – time for veraison. This is the wonderful and dramatic stage when, in only 24-48 hours, the grapes change color, become soft and pliable and the sugar starts rising rapidly. It is happening right now in our vineyards.