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Journey to Harvest: 09/01/2013

Vintage 2013 on the way

Photo by Jay Gamel

Harvest 2013 is so close that by the time you read this some of our Sauvignon Blanc grapes will already be fermenting in the winery. But right now, it's hard to exaggerate the building tension. Regular readers of this column will know that I tend to think about our relationship with the vines in human terms. If so, it's like we are 8 months, 3_ weeks pregnant. And the harvest this year looks like it may be about 10 days early.

Winery personnel are busy scrubbing, polishing and sanitizing, and making certain that all equipment is in a state of super readiness. Wine is very sensitive to even the smallest contamination. By the time the winery personnel are finished with their winery prep, the safest place to have your lunch might be off the winery floor! Years ago, winemaker Mike Lee told me that 80 percent of a great glass of wine is made in the vineyard, and the other 20 percent is based on cleanliness in the winery.

The winemakers are out in the vineyards personally tasting grapes. They are looking for just the right balance of flavors, sugars, and fruit acid. They are looking at the grape seeds and making sure they are a uniform dark brown. And they will chew some of the grape skins to make sure they are tender enough to easily release their flavors during fermentation. Note how much of this is based on the winemaker's tastes and aroma skills. And if you are good at this after say 20 to 30 harvests, you can apply for a head winemaker job.

And as for the grower, this is tension city. The whole year's revenue is hanging on the outcome of the next week or so. Rain or a hot spell can cause severe quality loss, so we check the computer weather station almost hourly for hints of rain or severe hot weather. A tiny cloud can be cause of almost panic. We check and recheck schedules with Chuy and his picking crew, and with the winery for their grape processing schedule. Nothing seems to settle the nerves. (Although over the years I have found that rubbing a little gin behind my ears has a calming effect.)

And now a word from our vineyard “spokesvines,” Marie and Javier.

Marie's Sauvignon Blanc Report

Sauvignon Blanc clusters ready to harvest. Photo by Jay Gamel.
At this moment, our grapes are so beautiful - not a trace of sunburn, bunch rot, or mildew. Our individual bunches are a little bigger than other years. Typical weight is around .25 pounds per bunch. Our average weight this year is closer to .35 pounds per bunch. But the extra weight just makes us extra beautiful. Grape color is a translucent golden green. Hold a grape up to the early morning, near horizontal rays of the sun, and you can even see the shadows of the seeds inside. We think our total yield will be a little less than 2012. And of course we are anxious to be harvested while all is so perfect.

We can forecast the harvest Brix (sugar) to be around 23 percent sugar. During harvest if you visit us and squeeze the juice of one of our bunches into your mouth you will find that the flavors are of fresh pineapple and apricot nectar. The job of our winemaker friends is to shepherd the juice through fermentation and processing to not lose any of these flavors and aromas. Pay attention, winemaking staff; we will be sending you some great grapes.

Javier's Zinfandel Report

We would like to thank Chuy and his team for their extra work getting us ready for harvest. They came through a few days ago and checked on each and every one of us. They cut off any bunch areas that were not uniformly dark blue-black. We Zinfandel are infamous for some of our bunches not ripening uniformly - such that a portion of a mostly mature bunch may still have an area with hard green berries. For great wine, it is critical that we are all ready together, and Chuy's men made certain that each of our bunches had a home of its own, not touching or overlapping any other bunch.

Some of our bunches had a small bunch shoulder that they removed. Finally, they removed a few extra leaves so that all of us would have air and light. All this is to minimize danger of bunch rot or rain damage. All of our bunches now are ready for our push on to a perfect maturity with perfectly uniform bunches. Thank you Chuy, and get ready…we expect our harvest to be early - somewhere close to the third week of September.

We Zinfandel have set a high bar for ourselves with our vintage 2010 winning gold medals at three major tastings. We do not expect anything less for our coming vintage 2013.

Patron's Report

Vines, grapes, picking, work and winemaking crews, all pay attention. We are about to make a lot of people happy - our bankers, our large family, and, most important, all of our 450 Association members who depend on us for great wine that will gladden the hearts of all of us. Our 2013 Journey to Harvest together is almost complete. Let's go for a rush together to the finish line.

Owner, Indian Springs Ranch and Vineyards

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