November 14, 2011

Harvest 2011 part 2: grapes!

8am, October 20 at Armstrong vineyard on Ribbon Ridge. Picking bins scattered around the vineyard and a fast crew of pickers working through the rows. The Vincent Wine Company harvest begins.

In most years, October 20 would see the last grapes coming in to local wineries. Ok, some late, late pickers and people who make Riesling would still be holding on. The point remains, this was a very late beginning to harvest and yet look at the sky. Beautifully blue, the ground dry, even a bit dusty after more than a week of dry weather (that would continue almost through the month).

A little while later, four tons of gorgeous Pinot noir clusters rest in a series of bins, waiting to be loaded on a flat bed truck that will take them to the winery. As the bins get filled with buckets of freshly picked grapes, a few of us pick out any rotten clusters, leaves and anything that doesn't look good.

I always like to taste berries and occasionally chomp into a cluster to see how things taste, careful to avoid seeds. This year, the flavors are ripe but the acidity seems strong, giving a fresh quality to the flavors, an energy that I'm looking for. The grape skins seem relatively thick, perhaps because of the cool year, and I think that I want to make sure the wines don't end up too tannic. File that thought away.

Later at the winery, our trusty grower Doug Ackerman (right) and several other kind volunteers help do another sort of the grapes. Again, we pull out any rotten cluster we find, any leaves, anything we don't want in the fermenters. It's tedious work but vital for producing great wine. The volunteers' reward? Fun talking wine and everything else you can imagine on the sorting line. Then some dinner and wine for taking home. Thank you volunteers!

From here, the clusters go through the destemmer to separate the grapes from their stems, dropping the berries into a fermenter waiting below. We end up filling three small fermenters with the fruit from three different blocks at Armstrong, each to be fermented and barrel aged separately before we blend in about year before bottling. Now comes the waiting period, where the grapes sit undisturbed until they ferment on their own. This year, as usual, it takes several days to begin. More on that next time.

1 comment:

Jerry Larson said...

Vincent, this has been a crazy vintage for sure. The ultimate for testing patience, although what other choice did anyone have? Have a question though. Have you noticed any variation in pip ripeness? Reason I ask is, Barney Watson (an old friend) dropped by the shop the other day and mentioned in passing that he had noticed some variability there, even though the flesh tasted fine and the pip separated from it as well. Wondered how much more (I'm asking others as well) sensitivity to extraction is
called for. More than usual, anyway.

Also, any thoughts to making your wine available down valley? Perhaps a broker or...

Jerry Larson, WINEOPOLIS, Corvallis