Growing up in the middle of the vineyards and winery has imprinted many sights, sounds, and smells over the years. The earliest memory of harvest I have is the smell of fermenting wine. It is hard to miss when you live right next to the cellar and the pungent aromas have been woven into my life for over 50 years. My family moved to our home at the winery in 1965 after my grandparents had built their retirement home just a hop and a few skips from the winery-in the middle of our Mother Clone Zinfandel vineyard in fact.
Our estate vineyard is all hand-picked so there is usually a small army of 15-25 grape pickers going through as quickly as possible and the speed at which they would move from vine to vine made the whole vineyard come alive. When I was younger I tried my hand at ‘harvest’ by going out and picking second crop Zinfandel with my sisters-we used wheelbarrows and buckets to bring in the bunches and proudly stopped at the weigh station to find out how many pounds we had picked-I think is was around 15 pounds-if that. We were so happy to be a part of what my dad and uncle did.
I also remember just after I first began working for the family business, in the tasting room, wanting to learn more about the winemaking process. So during the 1987 harvest I weighed and tested grapes as they arrived at the weigh station. I would listen and watch for gondolas of grapes from my office and meet the tractors to begin the process. I learned quite a bit by being at the start of grape crush, from weighing the grapes (which is serious business because the government watches this closely) to testing juice samples from the particular load of grapes checking for sugar with a refractometer as well as total acidity and pH, two other indicators of quality of a load of grapes.
More recollections to come as we make our way towards the 2016 harvest. A toast to memories with a bit of Zinfandel in my Dino!
The sampling process from last year-the bucket with the crushed Sauvignon Blanc and the juice sample representing the load of grapes-ready to be tested.