What a Long Strange Pick It's Been - Harvest 2015
And just like that, another vintage in the books! This year our crop was much smaller than we had projected (a theme in California, due to the drought), but the quality of the fruit was extraordinary. We picked the last of our fruit this past Thursday, September 10th after a rather long and difficult harvest, but one that we believe may produce possibly the best vintage ever for Emeritus!
Our harvest lasted about a week and a half longer (going almost a month) than in previous years because the weather cooled down quite considerably after the first weekend, causing the fruit to rehydrate and sugars to drop. This allowed Nicolas and Kirk to be more strategic about where and when to pick instead of being in a mad rush to get everything in before the grapes got overripe.
Kirk, Mark, Cristino and the rest of the vineyard crew had a tough go of it due to the lower yields and small cluster size, working longer and harder to bring in the projected tonnage each night. It’s been nearly a week since we finished and Kirk says he still hasn’t fully recovered!
While yields were down 20% at Hallberg Ranch, they were much smaller than expected on Pinot Hill, the clusters and berries were positively tiny. Yields at this vineyard were down 60%. According to Kirk, the “chemistry coming out of the fields was just incredible,” with naturally high acidity and brix that were “right on the money.” So although our yields were down, the quality was killer!
M Block at Hallberg Ranch. Picked early in the morning of Sept. 4th
We had some members of the E-Club get their hands dirty and help us pick M Block
This is what night harvesting looks like
Once a picker's bin is full they off load the grapes into a shallow bin.
In the winery, Nicolas and Ryan are really excited about this year’s fruit. The small berry size and higher skin to juice ratio means they are doing fewer punch downs (something they’re not upset about!) if they are too rough with the juice it can become over-concentrated, which would mean a very tannic Pinot.
Another thing that is noteworthy, and makes this harvest stand out compared to the last few, is that there is a lot of berry variation per cluster. This means that one single cluster of grapes can have all different sizes of berries on it with very diverse sugar levels. According to Nicolas, the French believe that the best vintages come from fruit just like what we brought in this harvest, with a mix of under-ripe, ripe and slightly raisined berries present on the individual clusters. The thought is that with this kind of mix there is more complexity in the wines than in a vintage where all the grapes are uniform. He and Ryan both think our 2015 Pinots will be very complex and interesting, showing characteristics of both a cool- and warm-year.
Once in the bins we have our first quality control check. The fruit then goes back to the winery and will be sorted on the sorting table.
Sept. 10 The cellar crew celebrates the last fruit coming into the winery. There is still lots of hard work to come, but no more early mornings!