Written by Neil Bernardi, Duckhorn Wine Company's Vice President of Winemaking, PJ Alviso, our Director of Estate Viticulture and special guest bloggers. This collection of insights on the farming, winemaking, production and all things Duckhorn Wine Company is a great way to experience the excitement of winery life.
Harvest is such an exciting and high energy time of the year. During this time there are some very important tools that we use in order to safely and efficiently harvest all the grapes over a 2-3 month period. Here are some of the Vineyard Team's most important tools:
This grey box is important for hand harvesting fruit. Our harvesting crews use these lugs to pick fruit into. Once they fill up one of these they dump it into a bigger bin that gets transported to the winery.
Gloves/ Safety Vest:
The cut resistant gloves and bright orange safety vest are very important for keeping the crews safe and visible!
A good pair of reliable, warm and comfortable boots make the long work hours so much easier!
The majority of our harvesting is performed at night and although we have large, overhead spotlights to make the area we are picking bright as day it still helps for the guys to have headlamps so that they can see the fruit perfectly with no shadows.
This is the tool that each harvester uses to cut each cluster from the canes.
While it is our Winemaker and her taste buds who decides when the fruit is at the optimal maturity to harvest, we in the vineyards use a refractometer to run quick tests to assess if the sugar content in the fruit is at a point where it needs to be sampled more extensively by the Winemaker.
Rector Creek, the home ranch of Paraduxx is a spectacular place. Located just north of the Yountville Cross road on the Silverado Trail, Rector Creek sits adjacent to the Rector Reservoir. Possibly due to the more consistent temperatures of the reservoir, Rector Creek seems to always have clear skies above it. Even on foggy mornings, you can see the sky at the winery. When approaching from afar, it's almost like a beam of light from the heavens is shining on Rector Creek. Loose rocky soils and a daily afternoon breeze adds to the mystique of this place. For Paraduxx, we harvest 4 red varieties that go into 3 Vineyard designate wines as well as a little Viognier for our Proprietary White Blend. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are Harvested and each blended with Zinfandel from Rector Creek to produce 3 of our Vineyard designated wines. We only make 500 cases of each of these wines and they are only available from us directly through our tasting room, wine club and online. All 3 of these special wines show off this special place in their own way. We are very lucky to come to work here every day!
(First, a little history): Last year the winemaking teams vied for glory in the first ever Duckhorn Wine Company Winemaking Challenge. Each team made 2 tons of Malbec from our Ridgeline Estate Vineyard, and the results are remarkable. The final judgement is coming up in the next few weeks, and the results will be posted as soon as they are in.
Harvest 2016 is here, as is the new challenge – Orange Wine! Now, don’t get worried, we haven’t traded in our beautiful vitis vinifera for citrus. Orange wine is a term for a white (grape) wine fermented with skin contact. In typical white wine fermentation the juice and skins are separated immediately, as the skins impart tannin, color, and astringency to the resultant wine. Skin fermented white wines (Orange Wines) are actually one of the oldest styles of wine out there, being a staple of Georgian winemaking for at least 6000 years. These wines are experiencing a small renaissance in wineries, boutique restaurants, and wine shops across the US, Northeastern Italy, and in some parts of France. If you are interested in more information about these fascinating and very distinctive wines check out this great website (Wine Folly). Good luck to the winemaking teams, and may the best wine win!
Cardiff has been with DWC for 10 yrs! He is a master of the cellar and is coming into his own as a standout winemaker. Cardiff spends most of his time giving direction in the cellar and helping interns figure out which way is up! When he's not at the winery, he and his wife Jenny are neglecting their rock climbing hobby to chase their 1 yr old sprinter around the house.
Rosé can be fairly tricky to get right, especially the color and texture. There are a couple different ways to make rosé wines, but we prefer to whole cluster press red grapes, and then ferment the juice as a white wine to preserve the fresh fruit aromatics. Being vigilant at the press is very important: if you squeeze too hard you can get excessive color and tannin, which can be bitter and astringent. This picture shows the difference in color between the free run portion and hard press of Pinot Noir, which we keep separate. That free run juice will make a beautiful wine for next spring!
Our first fruit is in, and per usual, Semillon was the first in the gate. This noble varietal hails from Bordeaux, where it is blended with Sauvignon blanc in the white wines of Pessac Leognan and Entre Deux Mers. It is also used in the production of the botrysized sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac. As pictured here with our new Duckhorn Vineyards Enologist Cayla Dee Porter, Semillon can produce large clusters bursting with juice. The Duckhorn Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc has historically been a blend of roughly 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon, though the exact percentages shift based on the vintage. Semillon brings a balancing mouthfeel and midpalate weight to the acidity and zip of Sauvignon Blanc.
New Decoy Winemaker Tyson Wolf rings in the new vintage at our Decoy winemaking facility. Most of the team was there, including bottling, to toast with Goldeneye Sparkling Wine. These folks are an incredible team and will move mountains this harvest. Cheers to all your hard work in advance! And here we have Domingo Villa Leal dumping the very first bin of the season, with the rest of the all-star crew looking on. Note the beautiful Duncan Peak in the background!
Cork Tree is an incredibly important vineyard for Paraduxx. This is the source for our Argentine style Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon blend. The wine is part of our vineyard designate series and a mere 300 cases of this rich and complex wine will be made this year. Cork Tree is on the southern end of Napa valley in the Oak Knoll district. Despite being cooler than the northern end of the valley, grapes coming from this gently sloped vineyard produce wines of dark rich fruit and big tannin structure. The placement of this vineyard on the soft sloping bench of the Vaca range has ideal exposure to the warm afternoon sun. You couldn't ask for better growing conditions for these Bordeaux varietals.
Hoses are another key tool of the trade. They are part of most wine movements, whether between tank and barrel, press and tank, or tank to tank. They get dragged around the winery all day, and are very tough. They do however need repair from time to time. Our DV Cellar Lead Jaime is working on banding some hoses, getting them in shape for the long haul.
Barrels are key to every harvest, but they require a lot of prep work to get them ready for the job. They need to be shipped from France, loaded on a truck, unloaded at the winery, checked for quality of workmanship, laid on a rack, swelled, and rinsed before they are ready to receive freshly pressed juice or wine. Here we have Manny, Scott, and Luis from team Duckhorn racking up new Nadalie barrels.