Sampling the grapes from a vineyard block determines how ready or close we are to picking them. Today’s post is about vineyard sampling.
Judging when a varietal is ready for harvest is crucial. There are quite a few headlines about early harvest this year but keep in mind that many of these vineyards are destined for sparkling wine production. Needless to say we’ll be harvesting our first grapes, Sauvignon Blanc, next Monday. This is a few days earlier than last year but not the earliest on record-that would be August 11, 2004. Taking a vineyard sample is the way all wineries determine when to pick.
So how is it done? The vineyard manager or foreman will walk through a vineyard block to take a sampling of berries from random vines, culling a good cross section of grapes. The sample is brought back to the winery and analyzed in the lab. There are three main and very important indicators from the sample: brix (sugar), titratable acidity and pH. Ideally the winemaker wants all three to be in balance-you may have the sugar but are lacking perhaps in acidity. The waiting begins as the sampling takes place over the course of a couple of weeks leading up to the big day. Of course you can always test berries in the field using a refractometer which will give you a quick reading. For accuracy’s sake the lab test helps determine the optimum levels in the three important areas indicating the right time to pick. Here is a great video (a very geeky one in my opinion, love the voiceover) on how it is done, thanks to Yakima Valley Community College. A toast to harvest as we get closer to our 2015 vintage.
A beauty shot of our Merlot from a previous vintage looking luscious.