Friday, October 22, 2010

Weird Science Proves Harvest is Over

Well, here we are again - at that time during harvest when you have to make the decision whether to pick or let 'em hang. This year is a repeat of last year. The storm door is open, rain is moving in, and temperatures are going to get no hotter than they are now - which is hovering around 70 on a good day. Luckily, we've picked most everything and from what I've tasted, we're going to produce some fantastic Cabernet this year. The flavors were there long before the sugars and we somehow managed to pick Cab at its usual time, although I can't say the same for Chardonnay and some other varietals.

But here's what I can't seem to get through to some winemakers: we're at the point the fruit will get no riper than it is now. Why? Because once the ground gets wet and cold, the vines shut down and go night-night. They think its winter. Some winemakers don't. But the vines know better. The vines know that here in California:

warm and sunny = summer
cold and wet = winter

I know you're all in love with the romance of the wine business, so here's your chance to experience what I'm talking about, first-hand, in the comfort of your own home. Let's do together what I'll call an "Xtreme Vine Geek" experiment to illustrate my point.

WARNING: Only responsible adults or ones who didn't kill too many brain cells during the '70s should participate in this experiment to avoid potential injury. If you just drank a Zinfandel over 16%, stay on the couch. You'll be unable to complete Step 1.

Step 1. Walk into any one of the 2.5 bathrooms in your home.
Step 2. Turn off the heat if you have it on.
Step 3. Go over to the bathtub. Turn on the water and dial the temperature to the coldest setting. Fill up the bathtub.
Step 4. Shuck your clothes off, down to your skivvies. Stand in the bathtub.

WARNING: Resist the urge to bring your laptop into the bathtub with you so you can continue reading to see what comes next. Otherwise, what WILL come next is a large jolt, followed by a funeral that your relatives will make me pay for.

Step 5. Are ya cold yet? Good. Now you know what it's like to be a grapevine in Napa Valley. Do you feel like you're warm enough to ripen some fruit? Of course not. You want a Snuggie in that hideous blue color and a hip flask filled with whiskey.

See? You guys get it. But no matter how much nagging I do, I can't get some winemakers to believe me when I tell them - THE SEASON IS DONE!


  1. Great - this made me laugh and listen. Now if I only had grapevines to tell this to. Good harvesting.

  2. I grow grapes/make wine in Southern Oregon, the ROGUE Valley, not the Willamette, and I picked everything last week, because I know the truth of this article. I have friends who chose or were coerced to leave grapes hang for a while longer, and now they're worse off than they were last week. And they will never get back to where they were last Thursday/Friday.

  3. Great grapes are coming in this Saturday whether they like it or not!

  4. Fantastic--if you are any type of gardener, you know when the crop has stop growing. One of these years the young winemakers will understand. Listen to the Man!!


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