In Wine Country, harvest is a time of great excitement, anticipation, and frankly, blood, sweat, and tears. The recipe of ingredients in this emotional elixir changes with each vintage, dictated by what Mother Nature has delivered upon the vineyard managers and the winemakers. With some vintages, additional components are added, such as gut wrenching anxiety and outright fear of total loss.
Yes, growing and making wine is, at its very heart, farming.
For those of us who simply consume this beautiful juice — which many cultures consider a gift from the gods — harvest inspires visits to wine country to take in the sights, sounds and smells of fruit laden vineyards, crush pads bustling with winemaking teams, and the alluring scent of fresh pressed grapes and dense, oak barrels. For the overtly serious wine drinker, we seek out the most informed folks on the ground to prognosticate on the quality of the vintage at hand.
So, considering all of the above, we peeled away from our daily desk chores and headed out to Durell Vineyard to see how everything was shaping up for Harvest 2012. The drive through Sonoma Valley in most cases is reward enough, but when you know that you have an invitation to pass through the main gate at Durell, where so many great winemakers have clearance, the drive takes on new meaning — like a backstage pass.
We meet Viticulturalist and Assistant Vineyard Manager Jackie Mancuso in the tractor barn, jump onto a ranch grade ATV, roll out through the lower streambed vineyards, and up into the foothills overlooking the valley. We ask how the vintage is looking so far. “We’ve picked for our sparkling wine client, with the grapes coming in at about 20 brix,” Jackie says in a very even-handed tone. “Everything for still wines will be ripe in the coming days and weeks, depending on where they’re located on the estate.”
As we listen to Jackie share her insight, we snap some photos of the panoramic views of the steep and sweeping vineyard scape and ripening Pinot Noir bunches. We note that she didn’t really answer the question.
“You know,” we pose, “the weather this spring and summer has really been beautiful. We’ve been hearing a bit of chatter that things look grea…good…so far.”
Jackie breaks eye contact and looks out over the Sonoma Valley. She appears to be restraining a smile, “we have no complaints.”
Yes, growing and making wine is, at its very heart, farming. And with this comes a bit of superstition and knowledge to never second-guess Mother Nature. We believe we have our unspoken answer to the potential of the 2012 vintage, but out of deference and respect to the people who will work nearly 24/7 over the next couple of months to bring in the grapes, we must hold onto our opinions and speak delicately around the subject.
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