Harvest Slows Down, But the Work Isn't Over Yet

Coping with coffee withdrawal while harvesting Mourvèdre and waiting for late-harvest Pinot Grigio
Nov 9, 2009

While night-picking grapes during harvest, it’s good to feel like the Energizer bunny at 3 a.m. I’m not sure how many cups of black Kona I drank to help get through the long hours of harvest …

When you need to get out the door at 2 a.m., decaffeinated coffee is considered the devil’s blend. But when I got a speeding ticket (while I was parked) and after noticing that people were asking me to hold their cocktails to blend them, I decided that too much is too much. This last week, I have been trying to wean myself from the magic powers of coffee (even drinking decaf!) without much success.

Except for a small block of late-harvest Pinot Grigio, I am done picking grapes. Now I only awake at 6 a.m., which on the farm is considered sleeping in.

On Friday I helped Kimberly and Brian Loring destem their Mourvèdre grapes from Russell Family Vineyard in Paso Robles. This fruit is for a blend inspired by the wines of Bodegas El Nido in Jumilla, Spain.

Mourvèdre is a very late-ripening variety. It is also a very old one that appears to have been brought into Spain well before the time of Christ. Mourvèdre didn’t make it into the Rhône until more than 2,000 years later, which definitely makes it a Spanish variety. Though it goes by dozens of names in Spain, depending on province and area, the most common name there is Monastrell. Some of the older plantings in California are called Mataro, but this is simply another name for Mourvèdre.

We ran the grapes through the destemmer and just like last year, for some reason in destemming, these grapes threw a large number of jack stems. Again we hand sorted all of the fruit berry by berry. It’s a time-consuming process but necessary, otherwise the jacks would contribute unwanted green flavors to the wine.

What is curious is that the ripe Mourvèdre fruit I have tasted doesn’t have the normal red fruit or blue fruit or purple fruit character you would expect. Rather the fruit has a definite chocolate character that carries through into the finished wine. The finished wine will be blended in with the Cabernet Sauvignon that the Lorings harvested from the same vineyard earlier.

I am looking at Wednesday of this week for bringing in our Pinot Grigio grapes still hanging. In mid-October we went through and cut the canes with hanging clusters and completely removed all leaves in the fruiting zone to expose the fruit. The grapes drying on the vine have turned to sweet golden amber. This wine is called the Invincible Sun. It is made only with fruit that has no botrytis and the name is a tribute to the old Roman agricultural gods.

I would prefer to let this fruit hang a little longer. With the probability increasing each hour of another “early” Pacific storm arriving later in the week, we are at a crossroads. The old Roman gods gave victory to those who were decisive. Wednesday’s forecast of cold and blustery seems perfectly invoked for picking the Invincible Sun.

Harvest Red Wines United States California Santa Barbara County Mourvèdre 2009

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