Journey: Thoughts and Reflections along the path. 

Sheldon Haynie
September 22, 2013 | Sheldon Haynie

Mid Crush update

Harvest is always an interesting time of year. From planning the picks to the physical work of moving 1000 lb bins and shoveling fruit its a consuming wearying process. That's why we call it "crush". Not only for the transformation of fruit into must, but for the transformation of people into tired grumpy automatons. Somewhat akin to "hell week" at a boot camp or other rite of passage, instead of DI's barking at us, we have customers worrying about whether they should cancel the pick, and fruit samples that tested at 25 brix on Wednesday that suddenly measure 20 on Saturday. 

We are sleep deprived, worn out and dealing with uncertainty, all of which makes a person snappish. Yesterday, we had three picks going off a 0630 (dawn is 0640) and a missing pickup truck. Simple mis-communication, it was at a different vineyard 15 miles away. Driving the roads of Santa Clara County in a 16 ft flatbed with three pickers stacked in the passenger seat before sun up is a memorable experience, instead of them being safely strapped into the rear seats of the pickup.

Watching another pick crew of 16 guys bring in a ton every half hour is almost intimidating, as one guy can't load bins on a short lift gate that fast. Vindication from the difficulty of the two twenty somethings who retrieved the errant truck brought the last bins in the nick of time and then loaded the second wave of 4 tons while struggling was bittersweet. For a 57 yr old I am doing pretty well, unfortunately, that doesn't replace the missing forklift which the rental people did not have. 

Then there was the rain. We normally don't get rain in September. Its part of our climate. We do get rains in Oct-April, and we don't want to have rains before harvest as the bunches get soaked, the water gets trapped inside and we can get rot on the tight clustered varietals if they don't dry. 

So rain makes pickers, growers and customers nervous, nobody likes to work in the rain, it makes the vineyards slippery, and is unpleasant at the least. So we cancelled picking for today, as the showers of yesterday were cyclical and it was not clear that we would get enough drying. Perhaps that was an over reaction, but the break will help, give the crews some rest, let the fruit have another week to mature, and give the customers a chance to get over their worrys. 

For myself, its nice to be sitting inside at Dawn, and not out setting up more picks. I'll go punch down in an hour or so, we have 3 tons of Cabernet coming in today from a grower who didn't cancel. That will fill up another 2-3 fermenters leaving us with 1 or 2 available. Good thing we bought another 10 for this season. If our 2 tons of Martini clone Pinot comes in we'll have to press off the Merlot to free up some space. 

Time Posted: Sep 22, 2013 at 6:19 AM
Sheldon Haynie
September 2, 2013 | Sheldon Haynie

Crush 2013

This year we are preparing to crush 40 tons, or about twice what we did last year. We will be also harvesting another 20 tons for other wineries and home wine makers. To give a scope to that number, a ton of wine grapes is about the volume of a long bed pickup. We will pick, sort and destem those grapes, punch down the reds and then press them all into barrels and tanks. 

From our first commercial crush in 2010, where we made a ton each of Chardonnay, Colombard,  Pinot, Merlot and two of Cabernet, we have come a long way. 

Some of the varietals will be blended, but we have a lot more flavors to work with  in the coming vintage. 

Our venerable basket press is no longer in use, with two Spiedel bladder presses, though our original destemmer is still in the plan, along with shovels. We picked up an additional 10 fermenters, to give us the ability to ferment 24 tons concurrently, and we will be punching that down twice a day. Along with the vineyards that we have taken on, we have a barn to work in, where we have a bit more space to do the crush and fermenting. 

Time Posted: Sep 2, 2013 at 6:32 PM