Northern California is experiencing another heat wave. The temperatures started to climb on Monday, which precipitated a rush to bring in grapes in both Napa and Sonoma Counties. Although no winemaker likes to pick during a heat wave, sometimes you are controlled by your circumstances. Meteor Vineyard, planted to 22 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, picked most of the vineyard for the estate wine earlier this week ahead of the heat, the blocks that were planted to Clones 7 and 337. All that remained were a few rows at the bottom of the vineyard, planted to Clone 4. I set another alarm for 1AM on Wednesday night, and made the nearly 90 minute journey to the Coombsville region of Napa to join vineyard manager Mike Wolf's crew of lightening fast pickers.
Like so many growers, yields are way down at Meteor Vineyard. Although they were expecting four tons of grapes from this pick, it came in closer to 2.5 tons. The clusters are much smaller, the berries themselves are much smaller and there are more shot berries to deal with. It is important to emphasize that none of this is indicative of quality in the glass. Again, just the circumstances of vintage that everyone is dealing with, from the grower to the winemaker to the people selling the wine. One thing is for certain, there will be less wine to sell from the 2015 vintage.
The crew wrapped up shortly before 5AM, delivering the cool fruit to the winery before sunrise. Lucky for me, Starbucks was open and after a large latte, I joined winemaker Dawnine Dyer at the winery at dawn to see the fruit come in. All hands were on deck, first to examine the clusters headed to the destemmer and remove any leaves.
After the grapes were destemmed, they headed to the shaker table, to remove shot berries. Then careful sorting followed to make sure no leaves, stems or other material followed the grapes to the tank. It is this attention to detail that produces top-notch wines.
After sorting, the grapes were fed via gravity to a stainless steel tank, to macerate for several days. In 3 or 4 days, Dawnine will inoculate using native yeasts to start the fermentation process. The grapes were processed and sent to tank before most people start their work day.
Time for everyone to go home and get some rest!