Yesterday, we shared an article by Debby Zygielbaum written just before this year’s harvest. Today, it’s “the after”, an euphoric exhale of the excellent 2013 vintage.
Harvest is over. Hallelujah, we’ve survived another vintage! This year’s crop was beautiful and bountiful, our poor cellar crew just managing to empty the tanks in time to stuff them full again. Oh, but they’ve put some gorgeous wine in barrel! I breathe a sigh of relief as the vines dress for autumn in hues of golden yellow, burnt orange, and leaf roll red.
After a ridiculously late crush in 2012 – we finished two days before Thanksgiving – this year’s crush came ridiculously early. We started mid-August and were finished by the beginning of October. It was a picture-perfect harvest, the grapes queueing up to be picked in orderly fashion. Even the rain didn’t faze us as our Pinot and whites were already in the cellar and the Bordeaux varieties don’t mind a little moisture. We were done in six weeks and we even had Sundays off. It was all so shockingly civilized.*
Compare that to the heat wave of 2010 when we couldn’t bring in the fruit fast enough – one weekend, we started picking at 1am and had pulled in 40 tons (by hand) by 2pm that afternoon. It was 4pm by the time we finished moving equipment and went home – only to start all over again that night at 1am. It was brutal and it involved a lot of [expletive deleted]s:
But this year, it’s a full three months before we start pruning and another five before the vines even think about waking up. Our soil amendments are spread, our cover crops are seeded, and our straw wattles for erosion control are laid. A sense of quiet relief washes over the valley as we button up our vineyards for the winter and wait for the rain. And I can breathe – I love an early harvest. I finally have time on my hands to plan and dream. We have time to mend fences, fix owl boxes, upgrade trellises – all the projects that get put off during the busy season. The crew has time to take vacations and rest. And that worry in the pit of my stomach recedes to a thing of the past – for now.
*Unless, of course, you worked in the cellar. Then it was pure insanity as you barely finished one lot of wine before the next batch of grapes came through the door. Hats off to all you ass-busting troglodytes!
Debby Zygielbaum is the Vineyard Manager (or, as she’s fond of saying, ‘Dirt Farmer’), at Robert Sinskey Vineyards in Napa and a frequent contributor on Nopalize. She can be found @walkthevine on Twitter and Instagram