The Kenwood Press|
Journey to Harvest
One hundred harvests and counting
Harvest for vintage 2012 has begun and all the primary yields indicate it may be the best in years. The actual numbers for the Sauvignon Blanc are the best since the l980s, before we had to change rootstocks because of a phylloxera attack. And long overdue! And the bunch count and weight for our Zinfandel are equally impressive. And it could not have come at a better time to help us recognize and celebrate our 100th vineyard harvest.
Since each harvest is made up of three to six separate small or partial harvests – each of our separate grape customers wants to fine-tune the parameters of sugar and fruit acid and grape flavors – we now may have five or six separate harvest days each year. Considering all this we are declaring this year our 100th Harvest Day. Each of these 100 harvests were unique and had their own special features of harvest crew, weather, grape quality, number of tons picked, and winery client.
I remember our first harvest like it was yesterday. Sept. 9, 1981, we shipped our first 10 tons of Zinfandel grapes to Mike Lee at Kenwood Winery. It turns out these grapes were nowhere near the sugar level that Mike really wanted. I found out later that Mike and his staff were exhausted with my bringing sample after sample for him to test as hourly and minute by minute I watched what to me was the glacially slow march of the grapes to maturity. He must have said… “For Heaven’s sake bring in George’s grapes and stop him from bringing in any more samples for us to test!!” That was 31 years ago!
But no matter how many times, at pre-dawn when I walk down to the barn to join the harvest crew, my imagination goes wild with thoughts of the thousands of grape harvests over the history of man’s life on this planet. I imagine myself to be the owner of a vineyard in Persia 6,000 years ago and I am bringing a load of clay vessels we will fill with unfermented, freshly crushed grapes today. Or I am an Egyptian mosaic artist and I have just completed a vineyard harvest scene and the key figure is holding a curved harvest knife exactly like the one I am holding in my hand. I am a Captain of a Roman vessel carrying wine jugs to fill with newly fermented wine in southern France to sell back in Rome. I am a vineyard owner at the New Testament wedding at Cana and observe with some worry the changing of water into wine. And in our own country I am Thomas Jefferson looking at my sorry failing vineyard and realizing that I will still have to order barrels of port from France.
As I walk through the rapidly picking crew I am able to personally greet many whom I know from past harvests. I do not see the individual worker, but for each I see some young woman with two or three small children in a tiny dusty village in Mexico and think how dependent this little family is on the success of this harvest and our work here. And of course, for my own family this great harvest can perhaps mean for the first time in years some small cash dividends all around!
In spite of all this, the real champions this year are our two vineyard teams, Marie for the Sauvignon Blanc and Javier of the Zinfandel vines.
Marie’s Sauvignon Blanc Report
This is our best harvest since the great times in the 1980s before we had to be replanted with new root stocks because of phylloxera. Each of our vine team members produced 21.6 pounds of fruit per vine average. We want to single out the newly grafted vines in Block 9, trained as bilateral cane with huge beautiful bunches – some over a half a pound each. Congratulations to all and to all a high five!!!
Javiers Zinfandel Report
We are still about three weeks from harvest with Brix around 21.5 percent sugar, but our bunches are beautiful and all a uniform blue-black with a uniform yield per vine average of 21.8 pounds of fruit per vine. This is our best performance in years. We really need some warm Indian Summer days to reach our desired Brix of 24 percent sugar. Manager Chuy and his army came through a few days ago and removed more leaves, particularly on the eastern side, so that we could get more sun and air on our bunches. About a third of us are head pruned and those members are producing grapes of superior quality. Wines made from these vines have won us three Gold Medals this year. The Old Patron says that over the next few years he is going to convert all of us to head pruned. But let’s not quibble; all of our vines did a super job in every way this season. So congratulations and high fives to all.