Harvest is like the Olympics of winemaking. It’s the pinnacle of our “sport,” where we lay everything on the line and give it our absolute all. It’s challenging and rewarding and really gets the adrenaline pumping. Harvest requires not only a physical investment but an emotional one as well. And, like the Olympics, one cannot compete at the highest level without appropriate preparation.
Rather than lifting weights or running sprints (yikes!), my Olympic preparation includes spreadsheets and copious notes. For instance, I like to map out my fermentation plans for each block of Chardonnay I anticipate harvesting. What strain of yeast to use and at what rate? What coopers work best with each block? What have been the historic challenges? Do we want to do any skin contact? There are so many decisions to be made each day of harvest; it’s absolutely necessary to have a game plan before the starting gun is fired.
I also consult the calendar prior to harvest. Our vineyard team tracks the phenology of the vineyards (i.e., what stage of growth/ripening the vine has reached), and, based on historical records, this gives me an idea of when each block might be ready to harvest. This year has been warmer and the vines have reached specific phenological stages earlier than the previous two. Therefore, we anticipate picking grapes earlier than we did in 2010 and 2011. All this information helps build the mental muscle needed to make harvest a success.
So, like the athletes who have amazed us so far at London 2012, our team is getting ready to amaze you with another great vintage of Far Niente. Bring it on Harvest 2012! (cue Rocky soundtrack…)
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