Working my first ever harvest was a vast learning experience for me. I was able to see and understand the entire process of winemaking from bud break to getting wine into barrel. During the 2010 growing season, I walked different vineyards throughout Napa County that we purchase fruit from, ensuring that growers were producing grapes up to our standards. In June, bud break began, and by the end of August, the grapes were 100% through veraison. For the next month I was pulling whole cluster samples from individual blocks of every vineyard to check for brix levels before harvest began. Some things I paid attention to in the vineyards during this time were sights of mites, sunburn, calcium deficiency, red leaf virus, and greens that needed to be pulled.
What I found to be most important is being able to recognize when it’s the right time to pick the grapes. I determined this by paying attention to the texture of the skins, flavors of the juice, and color of the seed and juice. By the end of September we weighted in our first load of grapes and the fun began! I worked on the crush pad from then until mid-November. Aside from being on the crush pad, I inoculated tanks, smelled tanks daily during fermentation, and eventually put wine to barrel. Although harvest was a time of long and busy days, I enjoyed every aspect of making the wine and having that hands-on experience. In fact, my dad always told me, “Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty,” and I certainly haven’t.
I look forward to more learning experiences being a part of the viticulture and winemaking team at Caymus Vineyards! ~ Jennifer Wagner