Harvest has started on the North Fork! While we are yet to begin harvesting our vineyards, a number of wineries across Long Island are busy bringing in fruit for their sparkling wines!
This is one of our favorite times of the year as this is when all the action happens at the winery! Over the next few months we will be keeping you up-to-date on the Blog and on our Instagram account on everything going on in the winery and the vineyard during the 2020 Harvest!
What's Happening in the Winery
With the beginning of our harvest season quickly approaching, this week has been spent preparing for fruit receival and readying the winery for the first grapes to arrive (aka lots of cleaning!) As our winemaker Russell loves to say "Winemaking is 70% Sanitation, 20% Perspiration, 9% Inspiration, and 1% Degustation, but only at the end of the day!"
When grapes arrive at the winery their first stop in their journey into wine is the crush-pad which is where all the action happens. The crush-pad is home to the de-stemmer, presses, weight scale, and a number of other machines that ensure that the first stages of the grapes post-picking journey to become wine goes smoothly. We have been readying our crush-pad for the last few weeks and just had new membranes installed to ensure everything is ready to go for the 2020 harvest season! Over the next few days the winery crew will be busy cleaning and sanitizing all the harvest equipment: hoses, piping, hoppers, destemmer/crusher and the presses in preparation to receive fruit, which could potentially be coming as early as next week.
While all of this is going on outside on the crush-pad the cellar is being prepared for harvest as well, cleaning tanks, making sure everything is organized, and preparing several harvest devices such as the 'punch-down tool' for red wine fermentations 5-6 weeks away.
What's Happening in the Vineyard
In the vineyards, Russell is carefully watching the grapes and monitoring their sugar content (Brix) which is used to determine the grapes ripeness to determine when to pick our grapes. He is regularly walking the vineyards, inspecting the grapes, speaking to the vineyard managers, and testing the grapes. As we get closer to picking he will be carefully monitoring the weather. The goal is always to harvest grapes after several dry days. Whenever possible you want to avoid harvesting shortly after a rain as the grapes will be bloated with water they absorbed.
A Note from Winemaker Russell Hearn
I never make predictions on the quality of the Harvest until 'all the fruit is in the building' however, 2020 is setting up very nicely and we are anticipating a good harvest. The growing season started very slowly this Spring with May and early June being much cooler and wetter than normal, which seems to be becoming the norm on the East End the last few years. Since then we have enjoyed a beautiful run of warm weather with very little rain (what we hope for in an ideal grape growing season). We are below normal in rainfall since June and have needed to drip irrigate several times during the last three months, which is always a good sign for quality. When the potato and sod farmers are grumbling about the dryness, the vineyard managers and winemakers are smiling! Grapes vines like a little stress during the growing season, with long dry summers and minimal rain being their ideal growing season. This harvest is shaping up to be very similar to 2019, so with some continued dry conditions I am very hopeful.
People have been making wine for millennium, with the first evidence of winemaking dating back to sometime between 8000 B.C. and 4100 B.C. However since the beginning the challenge has always been how to store the wine once it was made.
Glass bottles were not used in wine on a large scale until the 17th century, although they were different shapes—squat, with large bases and short necks—than the wine bottles today. It wasn’t until the 1820s that glass wine bottles began to resemble the ones we use today.
The main reason for the delay in the adoption of glass bottles for wine storage was that for centuries it was illegal to sell wine in a bottle. There were so many different bottle types (and volume variations) that it was far too easy to cheat, so merchants measured out wine from their barrels into containers that customers supplied themselves to ensure accurance.
In the 17th century that all changed. Up until the 17th century glass bottles were considered a luxury item due to the fact that they were made to order and handcrafted in a wood or charcoal furnace. Bottles were a time consuming product to make and therefore very expensive. However in 1615, King James I decided that English forests were better used to make warships. Wood was in short supply so manufacturers turned to coal, which burned hotter and produced stronger glass.
Sir Kenelm Digby is cited as “the father of the modern bottle” for discovering a process that resulted in stronger bottles that were able to be made and distributed on a wider scale. A controversial adventurer, privateer and alchemist Sir Digby was known for turning sand into gold by adding some secret ingredients (metals and oxides) and using a blower system to get the fire even hotter. His new formula produced glass bottles that were stronger, thicker, darker—and cheaper thus bringing a stronger better suited glass bottle to market.
This discovery made glass more widely available, but it wasn’t until the 1900s that mass production began. In 1887, an English company created a semi-automatic machine that could produce up to 200 bottles an hour. Over the years this process has been pefected and refined to allow modern machines to produce more than 600 containers per minute.
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Did you know? Decanting red wine separates the wine from any sediment in the bottle. Decanted wines often taste softer, because the act of decanting adds oxygen to the wine softening the tannins in the wine.
What is decanting?
Decanting is simply the process of pouring (decanting) the wine from one container (usually a bottle) into another, the decanter. The wine is often then served directly into the glass from the decanter itself.
Why decant wine?
This process is not necessary with every wine, but is usually reserved with older, heavier wines (think our T'Jara Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot). Aged, heavier red wines often have sediment at the bottom of the bottle, which if disturbed can end up in your glass. The process of decanting separates the wine from the sediment, making for a more enjoyable drinking experience. The sediment itself, is harmless to drink but can make the wine taste more astringent and will often give the wine a gritty mouth feel.
Another reason to decant is to aerate the wine. This is generally most beneficial to younger wines that may taste a little "tight" when first opening, as well as highly tannic and full-bodied wines. This is often why people talk about opening a wine to let it "breathe;" decanting or aerating the wine speeds up this process, ensure the wine is ready to drink when you are. Swirling your wine in the glass is another way to aerate your wine.
How do I decant?
To decant a wine, you will need a bottle of wine, a small flashlight (or the flashlight on your smart phone), and a decanter (this can be any 750ml or larger vessel). Prior to decanting your wine, let the wine rest upright in the bottle for an hour or so to let the sediment settle to the bottom of the bottle. Then, with your flashlight in hand, slowly pour the contents of the bottle into your decanter. Once about half of the bottle's contents have been poured into the decanter, place the flashlight under the neck of the bottle to illuminate the stream of wine so you can better see the sediment. Once you start to see a cloudy haze in the wine, stop pouring the wine into the decanter.
You will usually have about a glass of wine remaining, so to ensure that you can enjoy every last drop of this very nice wine you have just decanted, pour the remaining wine from the bottle into a glass or Champagne flute. This will allow any remaining sediment to once again settle to the bottom of the glass. Once the wine has settled, you can repeat the process and pour the clear wine off the remaining sediment.