Sauvignon Blanc

Version 2September 5, 2018

CALISTOGA — Day one of the Sauvignon Blanc harvest begins. We bring in 20 tons for Phifer Pavitt over the course of the next three days. It takes that long, not to pick the fruit, but rather it takes that long to press the juice to tank in our tiny and gentle bladder press.

The day goes something like this: forklift the boxes of fruit off the truck, weigh the fruit, load the truck with empty boxes, dump the grapes into the press (three macro bins per press load while two of us sweep the grapes by hand to evenly fill out the cylindrical vessel, digging into the mounds of fruit with our bare arms deep in the cold sweet mass up to our elbows in it.), then start the automatic press program which runs for upwards of two hours, and then we wait to do it all over again. In between we wash down the cement crush pad, maybe tend to some long overdue drain cleaning or paperwork. Soon it’s time to send someone to Palisades deli to get shrimp burritos (extra crispy). Finishing time will be well after dark.

Gary Warburton is the winemaker of record for this particular SB. I am truly the consultant on the project. So we also chat the entire time about style and technique to make sure we always veer towards the flavors and qualities of the wine that we have worked together on for the last seven years. He’s a great collaborator. And as an added bonus, today he bought the shrimp burritos for us all.

Jon Jones and I will tag team over the course of the next three days, covering for each other so we can each attend to our other harvest chores. He needs to drive to Amador tomorrow to check the Petite Sirah. And on Friday I’ll need to oversee the Zin Rosé pick in Suisun, after which I plan to check a bunch of other vineyards down there. Likely the Pinot and Merlot and another SB vineyard in Oak Knoll for Olabisi. And if I have time, I’ll pick up a hundred pounds of dry ice from Complete Welder’s Supply in South Napa.

First real day of harvest and I’m already tired. Or maybe I’m just out of harvest shape. Should be up to speed by the end of the week!




September 4, 2018

CALISTOGA — Before sunrise, after loading my pickup with two half-ton picking bins at one of our client wineries in Calistoga, I drove the 7 miles down to St Helena to pick up our Tasting Room Manager Joy Mesick for a bit of a team field trip. We would then drive up to the top of Howell Mountain to pick up Associate Winemaker Jon Jones. Once assembled, we headed down the other side of the mountain into Pope Valley. There we tasted through a Sauvignon Blanc vineyard. Walking up and down the rows together, eating fruit, commenting aloud to each other. “Mmmm.” “I’m getting fruit cocktail.” “Yes. Pear” “No green” “Good acid.” “Let’s do it.” “What are you guessing for Brix? 24?” “23.5” and on and on until we had gathered a small ziplock snack baggy of green and yellow grapes (or berries as we sometimes say.)

Next stop Suisun Valley, where we tasted through Roger King’s 25-year-old Zinfandel vineyard. Perched on the tiniest of knolls where the clay soil cracks open in startlingly wide fissures big enough to get a hand into, though I don’t know why you’d do that since it seems as if any type of thing might be lurking down there. We were tasting for several things–which part of the vineyard we’d use for rosé and which section we’d use for the traditional red Zinfandel, and then when to schedule the picking dates for each of those sections. Conceptually, it might be a somewhat complex endeavor, and yet when you start tasting through the fruit, walking, looking, tasting, thinking, talking, and tasting, the reality of the vineyard starts to present itself, like a map, a guidebook.

From there we headed a couple miles east to the warehouse district of Fairfield, to pick up some new barrels that had just arrived for the coming harvest. Two Meyrieux barrels. One destined for Cabernet Sauvignon and one for Syrah or for Zinfandel. I still haven’t decided yet.

To complete the loop, we took Jamison Canyon to 29 and up to Oak Knoll. Tasting through the Chardonnay vineyard. No change in the Chardonnay from last week. So we’re in a holding pattern there, unless that heatwave materializes at the end of the week. Then we’ll have to reassess and likely pull the trigger sooner rather than later.

And then finally to Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, arguably the target destination of the morning. We slipped in ahead of the crowds, grabbed some delectable pastries (pain au raisin, cinnamon roll, and blackberry muffin) and coffee and all was right with the world.