2008 Napa Valley harvest report: week one

by TrevR on August 29, 2008

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The first installment of our behind-the-scenes harvest coverage has arrived!

Again, each week we’ll be talking with the fine folks from Spring Mountain Vineyard up in St. Helena to get details about what’s happening both in the vineyard and at the winery throughout Harvest 2008.

Our first installment finds the winery expecting its first fruit–the Sauvignon Blanc–to come in sometime in the next week to week-and-a-half. Ron Rosenbrand, vineyard manager at Spring Mountain Vineyard, shared the following:

August at Spring Mountain Vineyard is a time where we are primarily concerned with irrigation. All the other jobs have been completed by now (shoot positioning, leaf removal, green harvest, training, etc) and keeping the vines and clusters hydrated is most important. Our steep slopes with shallow, infertile soils dehydrate quickly on hot summer days. [Ed note: this is precisely what we discussed in our related post last month]

The Sauvignon Blanc does look like we will start harvesting it within the next week or so. The Sauvignon Blanc harvest will last over two weeks because of the different micro climates on the property. We range from 400 foot elevation to 1600 feet and different slope exposure and soil variations. All these factors contribute to varying degrees of fruit maturation. We take berry samples of the fruit to check Brix, Total Acidity and PH. We use this information as a guideline to determine which blocks are getting close. As fruit nears the desired brix range, Jac, Leigh (our associate winemaker) and I walk the blocks tasting berries. We base all of our picking decisions on Palate, chewing skins, checking seed color looking for physiological maturity. With time, the tannins in the skin of the berry soften and the green flavors begin to disappear.

We excitedly await the beginning of harvest which looks to be another fabulous vintage at Spring Mountain Vineyard.

Here’s a shot of the crew sampling the Sauvignon Blanc earlier this week. In the photo are Jac Cole, winemaker, Leigh Meyering, associate winemaker and Ron Rosenbrand, vineyard manager. Note that Leight is holding her newborn son Zachary who arrived in early June!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, winemaker Jac Cole filled us in on what’s going on at the winery:

The month or so before harvest is always a hectic time; as you’re aware winemaking is a very cyclic business requiring certain rotating processes starting with new grape harvest and ending with the bottled wine. To that end the 2006 red wines are ready to bottle to make room for the 2008 gapes to be processed and take their place in the cellar. We started bottling in July and just finished the 2006 Spring Mountain Cabernet on August 25th. We were in the vineyard this morning tasting Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir and we decided that the SB should start Monday or Tuesday next week and the Pinot some time around Wednesday or Thursday.

Timing is everything and it’s working out just barely this year; we have a whole new sorting system being installed this year and since the equipment only arrived this Monday we have a week to get it set up and running; brilliant planning if I do say so myself.

The key to running a harvest is to have a detailed plan covering every aspect of what to harvest, how and when; then be ready to rip it up and start over the day the grapes start arriving. We have such a plan, so we’re ready to go.

So there you have it, some details on what’s happening up on Spring Mountain in the days leading up to the beginning of Harvest 2008. Stay tuned for next week’s update when things should really begin to get interesting as the first fruit begins to come in.

Don’t forget to check out our Harvest 2008 category for all of this year’s harvest-related coverage.

[techtags: Napa, Napa Valley, wine, winery, napa valley grape harvest, harvest 2008, napa valley harvest]

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has written 726 posts on The Cork Board. He was born and aged in the Napa Valley and has a passion for wine, writing and social media, which led him to co-found this blog in early 2007. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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