Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Harvest Is In The Air

This morning, while driving the 30 miles from my home in the Sonoma Valley to my office here in downtown Napa, I was once again reminded of how special this time of year is for those of us lucky enough to live in wine country. For me personally, one of the perks of my job is having the loveliest commute known to man. My route takes me through the back roads and byways of both Sonoma and Napa counties, with most of my route being lined with vineyards, mountain and valley views, and quaint local roadside businesses. My house is just over the ridge from Fisher Vineyards, and about 10 minutes into my drive, I pass under the brow of the hilltop where winemaker Michael McNeil is making Burgundian magic from Sonoma County Chardonnay grapes. Deer, raptors, wild turkeys and the occasional coyote are my usual early morning driving distractions. Driving through the heart of the Carneros region (Spanish for “ram”) I regularly can check on the progress of the vines that eventually produce both the Broken Spur and Pursuit Pinot Noirs and the Pursuit Chardonnay.

But this time of year, the most seductive attention getter is the smell of active fermentation early in the morning, when it is so still the wisps of ground fog still lie in pockets around the “tanks” (irrigation ponds) in the middle of the vineyards and along the marshes surrounding the Napa River basin. Smells like a cross between baking fresh bread and making strawberry jam at the same time. With the sun just barely peeking over Mt. St Helena, there is a lot of traffic for 6 A.M. – farm workers heading to the vineyards they’ve been assigned to begin the long day carefully cutting the clusters from the vines, placing them in 40 pound boxes that are then dumped into large plastic or wood bins to head for their appointed destiny at someone’s crush pad.

While this has been touted locally as “the summer that never was,” the last few days of 100+ heat have helped many of the vineyards catch up on their sugar production, enough so to make a crush pad manager’s life similar to an air traffic controller at O’Hare. The whites are mostly finished up now, and a few early ripening reds are being harvested. The big boys (Cabs, Petit Verdot, Zins – the usual suspects) are still a few weeks out.

This means, I’ve got about a month of heavenly scents to accompany my early morning commute left…

--Craig House, CFO/COO

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