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Notes From the Edge

December 9, 2012 | POST HARVEST REFLECTIONS

What’s that old Murphy’s Law?What can go wrong will go wrong.

The Leon Millot harvest was nearly ideal and the winemaking went smoothly. The wine is currently going through Malolactic Fermentation. So what about Murphy’s Law?

Our Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were ripening in a timely manner and the weather continued in our favor. The labor contractor we’ve been working with for more than ten years assured us we would have a crew on Thursday–the last day of our amazing string of warm, dry weather. Thursday morning came and went with no sign of a crew. We weren’t too worried since the crew had sometimes come late in the past. If the vineyard they were picking at before ours had more grapes than estimated, we assumed the crew would finish picking there before they came here. I put in a call to our labor contractor–and left a message to check on the status of the crew.

We had friends coming to help monitor the picking totes for MOG. MOG is “material other than grapes”. That can include leaves, gloves, pruning shears, hats, water bottles, etc. Since the crew wasn’t here, our friends volunteered to pick while we waited for the crew to show up. After leaving several more voice mails for our contractor, with no response, we getting more and more concerned. “The Rain” was forecast to start Friday. By “Rain” I mean the beginning of our rainy season here in the Northwest. Our concern was that while the fruit was still in good shape, there was enough disease pressure in the vineyard, that several days of rain might cause the mildew and botrytis to explode. Despite more voice mails our contractor wouldn’t return our phone calls.

We put out an email to our friends and supporters explaining the situation and asking for picking help as people were able. We had a good number of friend respond, but as predicted, the “Rain” began Friday. We picked in the rain with our intrepid friends and were making progress. One of our fellow grape growers responded to our plight and tried to get his crew come pick our grapes on Friday. We were hopeful they would make it, but after picking at another vineyard in the morning, they decided they were too wet and cold to pick any more that day. Our friend tried to arrange for the crew to come on Saturday. Once again our hopes were dashed. They were again too tired and wet to pick at our place. Our friends continued to answer the call and came out to pick with us on Saturday. At least we would salvage something of what looked to be a great vintage. After two days of rain, I was increasingly doubtful about getting it all picked and and less optimistic that the fruit would continue to be relatively free of disease. It looked like Murphy’s Law would win out.

Our friend prevailed on his crew one more time for Sunday morning. This time the crew showed up. With the crew and more of our friends and with the weather remaining relatively dry we were able to get the Chardonnay picked. The fruit still looked amazingly good. The crew seemed postive about their experience picking at Forest Edge and said they would be back next year. We hope so, because we heard from a number of fellow growers that they had trouble getting crews to come and to stay until until all the grapes were picked. Perhaps more on the labor issues in another edition.

But thanks to the persistence and willingness of friends to help us out in our hour of need, we were able to avoid the worst effects of Murphy’s Law this year.

Our crew of two(Jan and I) worked until early Monday morning getting all the fruit destemmed and crushed. When the fruit is in relatively good shape we like to leave them “on the skins” for 24 to 48 hours before we press. Many of the polyphenols and organoleptics in grapes are next to the skin and we feel that giving the grapes a chance to break down prior to pressing gets more of those desirable elements into the juice. We pressed the juice into neutral oak barrels and began fermentation. Fermentation went well with lots of the usual tropical fruit aromas and flavors in the wine. As I write this, the Chardonnay is undergoing Malolactic Fermentation and we look forward to a great vintage.

 

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