Harvest: More Than Just Picking Fruit
With the buzz of Harvest behind us, we thought we should take minute to recap all that Harvest 2011 entailed for Clos Pegase, as it is much more than picking grapes that goes into our craft.
Given the anticipation that preceded the actual commencement of Harvest of 2011 (anticipation, in that we checked weather reports for rain daily, making sure our efforts to leave grapes on the vine as long as possible to get the utmost ripe fruit weren’t thwarted) we did in fact start seeing activity on our Crush Pad on September 27; this was a mere 5 weeks past when we might prefer to bring in fruit, had the summer weather cooperated, but so goes the agricultural industry on which we hang our hats. Our production team, like many others in the valley, had a very condensed grape-picking window, that ultimately culminated in the last fruit hitting our crush pad on November 1.
From there, it’s hardly fair to think Harvest 2011 is complete. Alas…if only bringing the fruit in was the half of it…
Post-fruit picking, there was much to be done in the cellar, namely in the form of pump-overs and punch-downs. Pump-overs refer to every Harvest worker’s favorite thing to do, ever. (Insert sarcasm here.) Just ask anyone who has ever performed this task. I dare you to find someone who doesn’t groan at the thought. They take heavy hoses, hook them up to tanks and get that fermenting juice from the bottom of the tank moving to the top, where the grape skins have formed a layer. This layer is known as the “cap” and pouring the juice over it ensures optimal extraction and prevents bacterial spoilage. They do them 3-4 times a day per tank (did I mention that at times we have upwards of 40 tanks in use?) and they vary in length of time per pump-over based on tank capacity. Pump-overs are time-consuming, arduous and very necessary.
Then of course, there are punch-downs, which are equally as fun in the eyes of Harvest workers. Punch-downs are another way of circulating the juice in tank so that is comes in contact with the skins. By busting up that cap of skins at the top of the tank and mixing the juice around, less air is introduced to the wine as with a pump-over. Punch-downs are also considered to be a much more gentle technique, though if you’ve ever tried to bust through a cap of grape skins, it certainly is a workout for the puncher.
The whole method of “processing” grapes could be likened to having kids, I would imagine. Each varietal is like a child that needs individual attention. There are feedings, changings, baths, etc., which seem almost manageable because there is only one child at a time in “normal” harvest years, where varietals are spaced out over a few more days.
In 2010 and 2011, however, the varietals came in a lot closer together, or as twins, if you will (or triplets on certain days). They all need attention and you’re being pulled in different directions, but it all has to be done. To this “non-harvest” set of eyes, it looks like organized chaos, not unlike the Duggars, of 19 Kids and Counting fame, executing a family meal (or just about anything else) together. So you sleep a whole lot less, you come in at 2am to stop fermentation on the Portico, because it just so happens that is when the Brix get to the level at which they need to be to fortify the wine and you barely have time to breathe.
But you do it because
that’s what parents do you’re passionate about your craft.
Then the holidays roll around and that hardly counts as a break because, really, holidays aren’t exactly what one might call “stress-free” so that leads us to January and February. And it is there you find the production staff, finally taking a minute to come up for air, while still putting the finishing touches on wines for the upcoming bottling year.
All that to get quality grapes turned into artisan wines.
It’s totally worth it, wouldn’t you say?