Winemaking Through the Year

In modern times it's easy to get lost in the day-to-day and forget what time of year it is. Our lives are often so separated from the natural world that whole seasons pass us by.  This disconnect is not possible if you're a winemaker.  Every season, every month has its obligations, its tasks, its discoveries.  Since it's the quiet time of year, I have a few moments to walk you through the year:

Winter: The winery gets some love.  Repairs, equipment maintenance and planning for the coming calendar year happen.  Re-organization of the tool room and cleaning out the storage closets.  The wines are sleeping and too young to enjoy, just tasting and topping.  Sales are usually slow, so catching up on emails and enjoying a well-deserved vacation.  The vineyard gets pruned and a cover crop is grown.

Spring:  The vines start to come out of dormancy and worries of frost reappear.  If you're a vineyard manager there are many sleepless early mornings.  Better have your wind machines on the ready.  Consumers start buying again, so sales visits increase and event season starts.  Wines start to wake up and blending plans begin in earnest.  Time to get your labels approved for the summer bottling.

Summer:  Getting ready for the harvest.  Blending and bottling time, so better put in your glass and label orders, count your leftovers from last year.  If you make white wine or rose, it's running out the door.  Try to stay cool by doing early morning vineyard work, training the vines up for the year, mowing down the cover crops.  Hopefully get a backpacking trip in before the harvest comes again.

Fall:  Harvest is the best time of the year, the busiest, but best.  You finally get to really make wine again.  The grapes are ready, call the pick, process, clean, repeat.  You have to wake up early and go to bed late.  Fermentation management and barrel work, lot of refreshing beers after work.  Harvest interns bring life to the party and are gone before you know it.  Sales take a hiatus, only to be resumed at breakneck speed once harvest is a wrap.  Usually you limp into Thanksgiving, eat and drink like a king and come away with a big smile.  You did it!  All the wine is in barrel, the winery is getting boxed up again and another vintage is in the books.  December is a time tie loose ends and celebrate the coming of another great year.

Life doesn't suck when you do something different every day.

It's always darkest before the dawn

It’s always hard to tell how a harvest will turn out.  2012 was fresh and lively from the start, immediately likeable, yet still leaving you wanting to come back for more; its depth and weight, put on gracefully over the year in barrel.  2013 raced away, a horse scared by a crack of thunder, fleshier, yet more reticent. This wine is pretty now, but still angular, like a teenager growing into their body.  2014 was hot.  We had no winter and across Southern California the heat of July and August was remorseless, rain was but a bitter memory.  Across the Santa Ynez Valley, winemakers were prepping for harvest, fingers itchy on the trigger.

We bottled all 440 cases on August 22nd, with an improved label and our custom logo on the screwcap.  No rest for the wicked though, as I brought in the first of 2014’s fruit on the 25th, a full month earlier than 2012, weeks before 2013.  Drought conditions caused all of the Pinot vineyards in the area to go from under-ripe to very-ripe in a few days.  Many picked early, giving up flavor for bracing acidity, eager to brag about it, like the kid who raises their hand too much in class.  Many more picked too late, making super intense, extracted Pinots, like it was 2004.  Despite my worries, things turned out great, bringing all of my fruit in at modest sugars, good acidity and nice, clean ferments.  The weather gave us good stem lignification, bringing the whole-cluster component up to 33% this year, adding spice and structure.

So, for now, the wines are resting in their barrels, calming down after a hot and busy harvest, and full of potential.  I am back at work in LA, planning big things and waiting for my life to go upside-down with our first baby at Christmas.  In the meantime, I will be pounding the streets, searching for a home for this Weatherborne wine, hopefully on a shelf or table near you.