Hurry Up And Wait…

…for the grapes to come in.

Looking south over a block of Cabernet Sauvignon on the very top of the Canoe Ridge vineyard, which is about 2 hours east of Portland.

We’re pretty darn prepped for the harvest, and I’ve been doing a lot of busy work, so not much to say. We did a bottling, which I missed since I was at Burning Man, but I helped prep for it by blending wine and moving a lot of glass (winemaker-speak for bottles) around.

I spent a few days on the most drudgery-laden portion of my harvest: cleaning the picking and fermenter bins. All of them (there were many). By myself. I’ll try not to bore you with the details, but you have to pick up each one individually, wash, scrub, and hit it with triple rinse, and then gingerly (a very difficult, often aggravating operation on a forklift) stack them four-high. I’m anticipating this might be eclipsed by shoveling out fermenter bins and the press, but that’s all still to come.

I did some topping earlier this week which is kind of a combination of rock climbing and wine making. The barrels lose nearly a liter every four weeks or so, which makes topping a major part of cellar maintenance.

Topping affords me unique views of the barrel room, which gets repurposed as a wine-themed jungle gym.

Now we’re just waiting for some fruit! The grapes are not really cooperating however, because of our cool season. Jamie thinks we’ll have some Merlot in before October, but the ripest thing we’ve pulled so far was 21.5 brix; most sites were in the high teens. With temperatures around 70 during the daytime and moving down to the high 40s at night, I’ve been told the grapes will pick up as much as 2-2.5 brix per week, but there’s no hard-and-fast rule for this. Here’s to hoping.

Zinfandel at Alder Ridge, about 15 minutes west of Canoe Ridge. Both overlook the Columbia River. The Zinfandel here displays its classic tendency to ripen unevenly across its clusters.

The cool season also means a compressed harvest. Jamie wants good hang time with brix just at or about 25 for most of our fruit. The pressure will be to hang as long as possible without overshooting the brix mark. However, for all the grapes and sites this doesn’t happen to before late October, we’ll have to pull a lot of fruit at once in order to avoid the risk of frost damage. This might mean a lot of fruit all at one time, but as with most things in wine, one just has to wait to see.


About Morgan

Liquid enthusiast. Sommelier and wine communicator living and working in New York City.
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