Posted by Bob Betz
These are the dog days of harvest, when every inch of the winery, and every ounce and waking moment of every staff member, is consumed with grapes, fermentation, barrels and processing. Regardless of a winery's size, the vineyard and cellar crews are fully engulfed. And it's the time we plan the whole year for; it’s a winemaker’s cliché, but if we don’t get it correct now, there’s no making up for it later.
For me, the decision of when to pick a particular block demands the most attention of any I make right now, and it’s made against the backdrop of the near-chaos that can go on in the cellar daily. It eclipses which barrels or yeast to use, whether to punch down or pump over, whether to use corks or screw tops. And if you get four winemakers in the same room and ask them when they would pick, you would get four different answers!
Today’s picking decision was Syrah from one of our Red Mountain blocks. No other red variety smells so pure, tastes so good and satisfies like Syrah grapes. Walking the vineyards and deciding if it’s time to pick is always enjoyable with Syrah; sweet, those pure black and red fruits oozing from the berries, the acid in line. I end up eating them instead of just analyzing. In the cellar, the fermenters with Syrah are unmistakable: the black color, the exotic smell, the blend of fruits and spice box. Syrah gives itself easily during fermentation, not forcing you to search or coax out what you hope it will have; it’s right there, smacking your senses. Even when the wine is done fermenting and on its way to the press, it still tastes great, without angularity or stubbornness. I’ve been tempted to bottle some right out of the fermenter it’s so good!
We have one more lot of Syrah to bring in, and I’m already looking forward to its harvest.