At last, 2017 harvest is underway for Waits-Mast Family Cellars, as our first pick of the season took place at Wentzel Vineyard on Friday, September 15. It’s been a weird few weeks of weather and due to high temperatures, many of our winery friends are much further along with their harvests; some have picked fruit from all of their vineyards already.
Our theme this week seems to be “hurry up and wait,” as we’ve had estimated harvest dates shifting on seemingly a daily basis. We had expected to be bringing in some fruit today, but now that’s up in the air after a crew canceled. A major challenge this year is labor, with many of our growers talking of difficulties in finding people to work harvest, particularly due to a decrease in the number of migrant workers coming to California. On top of that, it’s been tougher for us to find drivers willing to haul our fruit all the way from Anderson Valley to San Francisco.
Although the 100+ degree temperatures in early August seemed to be a portent of an imminent harvest, subsequent rain and colder weather is slowing the trajectory of ripening. Vineyard owners and fellow winemakers up in Mendocino County are reporting that flavors haven’t fully developed in some of our vineyard sources, so we may be holding out a bit longer so that sugar levels can rise. For that reason, a pick that we had scheduled for this Thursday may be postponed by a week.
It’s probably the most stressful part of the winemaking process, as we monitor the weather and hope that we are making the right decisions as far as when to harvest our grapes. And, there’s the added paranoia of dramatic weather changes, especially after hearing tales from regions where heat spikes led to raisining in the vineyards. We also don’t want the vines to experience heavy rains, as prolonged dampness could lead to mold, particularly botrytis.
No pick is perfect, so we always carefully hand sort through our Pinot Noir berries when they arrive at the winery, removing unripe fruit, raisins, spiders, leaves, twigs, and anything else that should not be headed for the fermentation bin and eventual wine barrel.
Thankfully we didn’t see too many dried out berries or any mold in our Wentzel fruit, so are hopeful that this bodes well for our other vineyard sources. Our fingers are crossed for another excellent Pinot Noir vintage all around. For a look back at the 2017 Wentzel crop, take a peek at our vineyard reports from May (when the berries were tiny babies!), late July, and late August.