It’s the most wonderful time of the year…Harvest! Our Assistant Manager, Stephanie, helped out with the harvest this year and gave us a little inside scoop. Enjoy Stephanie’s take on the 2018 Chardonnay Harvest!
Harvest is always the busiest time of year in the vineyard, but it’s also my favorite! It’s when you really get to see the labor of love vines display, and how the terroir (environment specific to the vines) has allowed the grapes to blossom.
Vitis vinifera (common grape vines) can be very temperamental and relies heavily on it’s surroundings to produce effectively. What many people don’t realize is just how much our weather impacts the quality and flavors of grapes. The heat and sunshine bring forth fruity qualities needed for strong new-world flavors, while cooler nights allow the grapes to balance with enough acidity. Most harvests start first thing in the morning, not only to preserve the freshness and acidity but to also keep those of us picking a bit cooler!
So by 6 am, we began hand harvesting our Chardonnay. There are two main styles of harvesting grapes- mechanically or by hand. Mechanical harvests are primarily used when the vineyards are incredibly large, or there is a short amount of time to harvest. While faster, mechanical harvests often drop MOG (material other than grapes) into the bins, which takes longer to sort through once the grapes arrive at the winemaking facility. Here at Mount Ida, we hand harvest. Hand harvesting takes longer and requires more man-power. However, you can be far more selective about what grapes are of the right quality for the wine you make. Personally? I prefer hand harvesting. There’s nothing like being out in the vineyard that early, knowing that soon enough the grapes will be pressed into wine. Plus, the views are always beautiful!
The wine-making process actually begins with the harvest. When the grapes are combined into larger bins, the physical weight of the grapes on top of each other begin to slowly press clusters towards the bottom of the bin. Wild yeasts on the grape skins begin to eat away at the sugars inside of the must (freshly pressed grape juice), and so it begins!
People have asked me before how to produce great winemaking grapes, and my response is always the same, there’s no one way. Virginia is perfectly positioned to sustain old-world varietals, with a new-world flair; and as with any good wine- we try to keep a balance of bold flavor with elegant finesse. But the real answer is simple- the dirt speaks, and we listen.