Who knew our harvest and crush would stretch over SIX WEEKS as each of five varietals managed to come ripe at one week intervals. After harvest, each grape type has to be crushed/destemmed, then put into primary fermentation vats where they require intense, full time babysitting for a week or so — what with three times daily punchdowns, temperature checks and specific gravity readings. The problem was, every time I shepherded a varietal through that labor intensive process and into secondary fermentation, the next varietal would be screaming to be picked. So the process went on and on and on.
Today we picked the last of our Cabernet and will have it all in primary fermentation vats by tonight. Then one more week or so of Grape Daycare and my life will be “schedulable” again.
Funny thing about that Cabernet. It’s eventually going to be our largest crop, but apparently our land seems vastly more suited for our Rhone style varietals: the Grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault. Although we aren’t technically at the full three year point, where one expects to get useable grapes, those three yielded nearly a ton each of lovely fruit. And that’s in a year when we dropped fifty percent of the fruit just to give the vines a chance to strengthen! But the Cabernet is still sulking like a four year old who doesn’t want to go to daycare. It grudgingly put out tiny fruit on about every third vine. And it stubbornly sat at 25 Brix level until we gave up and just started harvesting.
Our Cabernet harvest is laughable. I’d be surprised if we managed to get 100 pounds of fruit. Which is probably a good thing since we had to pick it ourselves and my wrenched back still has me hobbling around like a 90 year old.
However, we have a plan. A small amount of Cabernet is just perfect for experimentation with blending and trying out different techniques. If we ruin it all and learn what not to do, who cares? I think we’ll be pleased with our Rhone varietals and can afford to play with our Cab. So far the experiments we’re contemplating are fermenting naturally without adding yeasts, trying different temps for fermentation and experimenting with unusual blends.
Call our fermentation shed “Frankenstein’s Lab”. And be careful going around there on moonlit nights!