June is a great month for countdowns. There are countdowns to graduations, weddings, vacations, and my favorite- summer break (t minus 4 days and counting). And while the end of summer seems blissfully out of reach right now, believe it or not, we have begun the countdown to harvest. Yes, with harvest “only” (winemaker’s word) 65-75 days away, setting up for the 2014 harvest has just begun. So what exactly do you need to do to set up for harvest so early? I’m so glad you asked- it gives the winemaker a platform to vent his concerns and frustrations…
It all starts off with a lot of planning. Even as early as it is, the winemaker starts to get an idea of what harvest will look like this year. Once he has an idea of what the harvest will require, Derek goes to Mike Naggiar with his gimme-gimme laundry list- barrels that need to be purchased, tanks and refrigeration needed, filters, fermentation and lab supplies…orders on all of these need to be placed. Not exactly the kind of shopping list that gets me excited, but makes Derek positively giddy.
Next, it’s time to bring out the big guns
-and by that I mean the big machinery. We pull out all of our harvest machinery, from night-picking lights to the presses and start them all up. Service technicians come in for the press, de-stemmer and pumps to give them a once-over. There’s nothing more irritating than starting up harvest and finding you have a hole in the bladder (been there, done that) or one of the safety switches has shorted out or the the crusher won’t turn on. The tractors get a lot of TLC this time of year to make sure they’re all running soundly in preparation for harvest. And last, but not least, Derek pulls out his cot to make sure it is still sturdy enough to support his weight during the occasional cat nap.
In the winery itself, we start looking at doing our last rack and return of the 2012 and 2013 wine before harvest starts. We move everything into the secondary barrel storage room to make room in the main barrel room for the new and empty barrels that will be filled this harvest. Lastly, we lock-in this year’s installation of free labor- our hardworking, harvest interns. This year, Naggiar will be hosting two interns from Italy from August to October. The advantage of European interns is you hold onto their passports so there is no chance of escape. All kidding aside, we have been very fortunate in being blessed with hard-working interns that were given plenty of first-hand harvest experience.
Derek really does love the countdown to harvest, though, bringing it around to me, it makes planning a summer vacation pretty hard as he’s always worried about what is going on in the vineyards while we are gone. That’s just when I say “have another glass of wine, honey…”