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September 18, 2008

Viognier Harvest 2008

Wow, what a long day.

So we made the decision a few days ago to harvest today, and decisions like that are the combination of many gears in a big machine. Ripeness, availability of harvest labor, crush pad access and of course weather. In a perfect world I would have let the fruit hang a few more days but then there would have been too many complications with the other critical components. So that's how it goes, all the pieces of the puzzle have to be considered and at some point you just say go!

Brix was reading about 21.6 this morning, about 7 AM as we began. Due to the hail storms we had this summer we knew we would have to make two passes through the vineyard. The first pass would be to get all the clean fruit (mostly from the east side of the rows) and the second pass would be to get all the compromised fruit (the west side)

This year the Viognier is being produced by the very capable and talented team of Mark and Vicki Fedor of North Gate Vineyard. Since we are crushing at their place tomorrow, we needed a place to keep the fruit chilled overnight, so the best course of action seemed to be renting a refrigerated Penske truck. We got a 24' truck and parked it in the vineyard, then just shuttled lugs from the rows into the truck.

Even with the "non-hailed-upon" fruit there was still some sorting to be done, so we had the crew (Los Muchachos, Neil, Geno, Steve, & Ryan) picking out bad berries before going into the lugs. I kept busy loading the lugs into the pickup, moving to the Penske, and loading up in there. We worked busily through the morning, and Shannon picked up lunch for the crew around noon. After lunch, it became apparent that the pace we were keeping was falling way behind, so I gave Quentin a call and asked if he could send over some more crew to help out. He said they just had to finish picking another vineyard (about an hour left) and then could send some reinforcements. About an hour later I had to make the call to stop sorting fruit into the lugs and just get it picked. This greatly increased our pace and we started moving very quickly through the harvest, and now the reinforcements started to arrive. I pulled Ryan and Antonio with me to help move lugs to the Penske, and the crew finished up the first pass through the vineyard about 5 PM.

We then had the dilemma of whether to begin the second pass or come back later. Given that we were all set for crush tomorrow, we had to keep plowing ahead, but at this point we had 14 people picking so it flew. We finished up the second pass in about two hours, and moved all the lugs down to the Penske and got them stacked in. The last lugs came right to the end - 6 tons of fruit (well 5 tons of fruit and a ton of junk left on the clusters from the hail.) So we'll see how it all works out tomorrow at crush.

All in all I felt great about the quality of the first pass, though I am very unsure if we'll be able to use any of the bad clusters. You can only sort so much on a crush pad. That said, given what we were looking at in July right after the hail storms I am thrilled to have even gotten this far, so I guess we're in pretty good shape right now. Time to crank down the chiller and go get a shower!

Posted by Stephen at September 18, 2008 9:02 PM