Earlier this month we sat down with the Winemaker at Grace Patriot Wines to discuss all things harvest – including some of your burning questions that were sent in via social media. Check it out below!
What is ‘Harvest’?
For wineries, ‘harvest’ means grapes. It’s the time of year when the grapes are ripe and picked, and the wine making process segues from the vineyard to the cellar.
When did the 2015 harvest begin in El Dorado wine region?
This year, our harvest began in late August. But it all depends on the vineyard’s location and elevation. If you ask our neighbors in Fair Play or Pleasant Valley – you might get a different answer!
Why do some wine regions harvest earlier than others?
The timing involved in harvesting grapes is dependent on the weather and climate of the growing region, the variety of grape, and even the product that is planned for the grape. (Grapes for sparkling wines will be harvested earlier while dessert wines will typically be harvested later.) Hotter regions at a lower elevation would be more likely to have an earlier harvest than those of us higher up with a little cooler surrounding because heat causes the grapes to mature and the sugar content to develop.
Did the drought impact harvest this year?
The estate here is lucky to have a clay-like soil that holds moisture fairly well. We typically don’t water more than a couple days in a season. This year, most varieties received only one day of watering. (A few sections were even dry-farmed!) Many grape varieties, once established, can be quite drought tolerant. We did experience an earlier than normal harvest here, but it wasn’t so much the lack of water in a drought but the fact that drought years are usually hot years, and the hotter the temperatures over the growing season, the sooner the grapes are ready to pick.
What does a typical day of harvest look like?
Harvest looks like sunrise with rows of vines that need to be checked off like a to do list. Lots of equipment, people outside, people on ladders, red necks, purple hands, dirty clothes, sticky skin, and new barrels. There are many sides to harvest, but grapes surround all of them.
How much wine does one vine produce?
Well this is a tricky question – there isn’t one answer because there are so many different variables that can impact the outcome. For example, this year, many wineries experienced a low yield because of the drought, the temperatures and a late spring frost that naturally thinned the vineyards. Many vineyard managers will control the quantity of fruit to bring up the quality, and different varietals have different yield capabilities.
But all those variables aside – I went ahead and divided the number of vines at Grace Patriot Wines by cases produced off those vines… I got about 6 vines per case. So with 12 bottles in a case, I end up with about 2 bottles per vine.
How much wine does one barrel hold?
Each barrel contains about 60 gallons, 25 cases or 300 bottles!
Do you stomp the grapes with your feet?
No. Though it sounds fun to channel our inner Flintstones, we use machines that make the process go much faster!
Who is involved in harvest?
Everyone at the winery – from the winemaker, to the tasting room staff. It’s a group effort!
When can we enjoy wine from this year’s harvest?
For most wineries, you can expect to taste the white wines and rosés by Spring 2016, the lighter reds in just over a year, and the big reds 1-2 years. But don’t let the time frame intimidate you – it’s always worth the wait!