Today, Friday October 29, we end what we began almost exactly 2 months ago: our 2010 vintage has come to a close.
It’s easy to determine when vintage starts. This year it began on August 30th as our euphoric little band stood on the crushpad and hand-loaded Chardonnay grapes into the press while watching the sun rise over steel-blue Seneca Lake. It was a fabulous morning; we were filled with anticipation and a sense of urgency. We were not sure what challenges lay ahead, but we could not wait to meet them.
In the ensuing weeks, we crushed and pressed over 255 tons of fruit. We analyzed all the incoming juices for ºBrix, titratable acidity and pH. We racked thousands of gallons of juices, inoculated 47 fermentations, monitored fermentation status via assay and taste, controlled fermentation temperatures, punched down red ferments, fed yeast their required nutrients, and pressed the reds to tanks. We’re emptying barrels of last year’s reds in order to wash and refill the barrels with 2010 reds. We’re evaluating the 09 reds as we’re wrapping up this year’s vintage.
Phew. We did a lot, and mainly, it was done without sleep. Peter Bell did not miss a single day of vintage—in fact, he has worked every day since mid-August. Kelby might have stayed home one of the days, and Peter Howe was here for all but an occasional Saturday. Those days usually ranged from 12-16 hours in length—what a marathon. I’m a Mom—I had a later start and, quite often, an earlier quitting time than the fellas. These guys always understood my need to spend some time at with my girls and tend at least a little bit to our home—no matter how tired Peter, Kelby and Peter were, they never minded my leaving when I had to go—what a great crew to work with!!! Fatigue could not erode their passion or their vision or their good humor.
There is still a lot of work to do. There is a monumental amount of clean-up which has to happen next week. We have fermentations still ticking along in tanks. We have loads of barrel work left to do. We have to inoculate about half of our reds and all of our Chardonnay barrels with malolactic bacteria. We have critical decisions to make regarding the residual sweetness we desire in our aromatic white varieties. We have to push our Rieslings into various styles, and make those blends.
So, with all this left to do, how can I say that vintage is over?
We pressed our last red fermentations into tanks today. The crusher-destemmer and must pump have been cleaned, and so has the press. We will not be getting any more fruit this year. All of the grapes which we picked have been processed, i.e., they have been crushed and pressed and are now wine. The yeast haven’t finished all of their work yet, but we do not have any juice left in the winery.
There is no formal or industry-wide end to vintage, though we’re not alone in choosing this end of pressing to signify the end of this season. The phone starts ringing around the end of October as winemakers re-emerge from vintage. Everyone wants to know if we are done pressing, if we like what we are seeing, and most important, if we are all safe after this long period of hard, and potentially accident-causing, phase of winemaking.
Here’s hoping that all of our comrades are safe and well, and that, as our friend Johannes Reinhardt of Anthony Road says, all the babies (new wines) are happy.
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