Harvest Update: October 2020
What's Happening in the Vineyard
This time of year a winemaker spends a good portion of each day walking the vineyards, inspecting the fruit, and tasting the berries to determine their optimal ripeness and when they should be picked. Harvest is well underway on the North Fork and we are looking forward to picking several more tons of fruit in the coming weeks!
Our winemaker Russell has been walking the vineyards, inspecting the fruit, and testing the berries Brix (sugar) levels to determine their ripeness. Winemakers walk the vineyards for a number of reasons as there is a lot you can tell by looking at the vine and tasting the berry as to how the fruit is developing. Taste is a key indicator (as it is in every step of the winemaking process). By tasting the grapes you can assess the ripeness of the berry based on its sweetness as well as by the taste of the seeds.
If you have ever had the chance to taste a wine grape there are several seeds inside the berry. These seeds are a great indicator of a berries ripeness. Green seeds mean the grape is immature. As we walk the vineyard and taste the fruit we are looking for a desired sweetness level and a brown seed indicates that the berry has reached ripeness. An underripe seed can impart a "green" flavor to the wine and add an astringency to the tannins particularly in a red wine which will spend the first few weeks of its post-harvesting journey into wine, in contact with the skins and seeds.
What's Happening at the Winery
Harvest is well underway on the North Fork of Long Island! At this point in mid-September most of the fruit for sparkling, white wines, and rosés have been picked and have begun their fermentation process (which has been keeping our winery crew nice and busy these past few weeks). The red harvest will be starting shortly but we are enjoying the "calm before the storm" at the moment.
Once a grape has been harvested and brought into the winery there is a lot that needs to happen before that grape makes it into your glass—destemming, crushing, settling, fermentation, pressing, pumping, racking, barreling, and bottling—the journey from grape to wine is just beginning. We aren't going to dive into all of that just now (that would be a VERY long post) but let's talk briefly about the first few steps as they relate to what is happening at our winery at the moment.
Our white wines are "in tank" at the moment. When they first came into the winery they were destemmed and loaded into the press which gently squeezed the juice from the berries, leaving the skins and seeds behind. The discarded skins and seeds were then loaded into a truck and driven to the vineyard where they are being composted to be used to fertilize the vineyard for seasons to come. Back at the winery our white wine juice is pumped into tanks (as can be seen in the photo to the left). The juice is then left alone for a day or two to allow any solids to settle to the bottom.
Once the juice has settled, it is racked (the clear juice is pumped into another tank leaving the solids behind) at which point it is inoculated with yeast and the fermentation process begins. During fermentation, temperature control is essential. If the juice is too cold the yeast will go dormant and if too warm the yeast will die. All of our tanks are temperature controlled to create an ideal environment for the yeast to thrive as they consume the naturally occurring sugars in the grapes and convert them to alcohol. Once the yeast is finished consuming the sugars (all sugar is consumed when making a dry wine, fermentation is stopped while some sugar remains for a sweet wine) the fermentation process stops and the wine is again settled allowing the dead yeast cells to settle to the bottom of the tank. Once settled the remaining clear wine is racked into a new tank or barrel to begin its aging process.