Maybe you read Christian’s 2019 Pre-Harvest blog, where he reflected on things that can go wrong before the grapes make it safely into the fermentation tanks. So, how did harvest go? As the harvest weeks came and went, we were fortunate to escape most of the unpredictable forces Christian had mentioned.
The grapevines are all happy and healthy because Oscar and his team were able to protect them from pests and keep the irrigation working flawlessly in the vineyards, and we have also escaped both smoke and hail. The more far-fetched risks of earthquakes and volcano eruptions have not materialized either.
But when the forecast called for light rain on our busiest harvest night, we couldn’t help thinking of last year when a similar forecast resulted in a downpour so heavy that the tractor trailer got stuck in the mud with 20 tons of Tempranillo grapes. No need to worry, though; this year we got just a light mist, and the big crop made it safely down the dirt road from the Diamond Mine.
It can be a challenge to find enough manpower to harvest the crops in the fall, so it is a blessing that machine harvest can now produce grapes of a very high quality. Again, this year we got harvest covered just in time; friends with a giant harvest machine showed up to help on the biggest harvest nights, and busy hands were available to pick the smaller, more delicate lots of grapes.
So, did we get through harvest without one single challenge? Not completely…
… We did experience small doses of both fire, frost, and power outages.
One morning in late September a tiny fire started by the winery, but fortunately the team was able to keep it at bay until the fire trucks arrived. We were so thankful when we could hand the smoldering grass over to the professionals so we could go on with our day and replace the used fire extinguishers and the 50 gallons of drinking water we’d poured on the flames.
Most years, Else’s Vineyard (home of our Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon) will experience a few nights of frost as we get close to harvest. This year the frost alarm went off 10 times in the wee hours of the night so we had to jump in the Jeep and drive to the pond to turn on the overhead frost protection sprinklers . (As the water turns into ice and encapsulates the vines, it releases heat to the grapes and leaves, protecting them from the freezing temperatures. It looks pretty “cool”, too!) We are thankful that our efforts would bear fruit, quite literally – we got and abundant crop of delicious grapes.
There was one harvest challenge this year that was completely new, but it seems like we will need to get used to that one. In an effort to keep fire hazards down, our power company has started “Public Safety Power Shutoffs” (read: power-outs!) on days that are hot, windy, and with low humidity. Our team had to work hard to keep both the winery and the tasting room on track every time the power was off for several days. Thank God for generators!
We were blessed to have yet another harvest successfully come to a close this year, and we can’t wait for you to taste the results.
On a more somber note, we keep our neighbors in Sonoma in our prayers. With the Kincade fire sweeping through their area, many wineries will remember their 2019 harvest as a very sad story.