The first 4 a.m. wake-up call (last Thursday) this harvest, for the Bressler Napa Cabernet pick, wasn't quite so pretty. I didn't get a good breakfast, or any food to take with me. I was just running around trying to get stuff together.
I got better and better every day. Now everything gets done. I get sunscreen on, my hair combed, a breakfast snack, and I'm even able to pack a snack and still be able to get out the door before 6 a.m.—practice makes perfect! I'm like a fireman now, jumping into my pants, down the fire pole and out the door.
When you can start with less stress it makes all the decisions that need to be made during the day much easier.
We've had some refreshing autumn weather the past two days here in Napa, allowing vines and winemakers to recover and reload after a spike of heat.
In the past week we've picked Merlot and Cabernet Franc from St. Helena for Bressler, and the same two varieties from Frediani Vineyard in Calistoga for Selene, Cabernet Sauvignon from St. Helena and Malbec from Stagecoach Vineyard, both for Boyanci Wine.
The Bressler came in first and it's the best extraction I've seen for these two varieties from that vineyard since we began harvesting these blocks in 2004. Deep color and sweet tannins. I'm cofermenting this, and the combination seems to be synergistic.
The Franc and Merlot at Frediani came in on two different pick days. I picked Frediani Merlot at first light in Calistoga last week. The Merlot was running ahead of the Franc in terms of ripeness but in the past two weeks the Merlot ripening curve hit a flat spot and the Franc went into high gear and passed it right by. So we went after the Franc first and the Merlot four days later. I usually like to coferment these two like the Bressler, but this year there were a few more reasons (besides the difference in ripening) that kept me from doing so. First, I wanted to punch the Merlot down during fermentation rather than pump it over to allow for maximum extraction of color, flavor, and tannins, whereas I always need to closely monitor the extraction of the Franc so as not to overdo it. Second, the fruit set on the Merlot made for very loose clusters, translating to a high stem-to-grape ratio. Merlot on its best day throws a lot of green stem pieces (we call them "jacks") after passing through the destemmer; when it sets loose clusters, it's a disaster. It also had a fair amount of shot berries (very small berries that don't fully mature) and a few raisins that I wanted to take care of on the berry sort crusher. The Franc clusters, on the other hand, looked very nice and did not require any sorting.
The Cab for Boyanci came in on Saturday. It's clone 169, which has small, concentrated berries. It's just starting to ferment as I write this and hasn't shown much of what it's got yet. Then it was Malbec Monday. I put this one on the berry sort crusher for similar reasons as the Merlot above. Stem jacks were a little less a problem here, but it is similar to Merlot in that it blooms early in the season, when the weather can be a little dicey and cause some shot berries. Another punch down fermentation for that.
We have one more pick scheduled today. Petit Verdot for Boyanci also from Stagecoach. Otherwise, it's all about monitoring the ferments and checking a few vineyards that may be candidates for picking next week.
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