Red Mountain AVA Harvest 2019 Recap

23 Oct

We had a couple of wine spills, early mornings and late nights, but #Harvest2019 was well worth it.

Loading Merlot from Red Path Vineyard in the hopper to crush and destem.

Harvest 2019 started with excitement, anticipation, and preparation. All ducks were in a row, logistics were on point, bins and bungs were ordered, barrels were on the way and the production facility was ready to receive wine grapes. We were set and waiting for the action of harvest 2019 to begin. We couldn’t have been more prepared.

Then harvest started.

Right away, we learned that even with the best plan, flexibility is key. Mother Nature will throw you for a loop and it’s up to you to rebound and come back strong with a new plan to get back on track. It’s September 9th and our first grapes are picked and brought in to the production facility.

Here WE Go

Since we make a Sashay rosé, we tend to bring these wine grapes in first. We made the decision to pick the Merlot grapes from #redpathvineyard a little earlier than we pick for reds so we get more acid in the wine and less sugar. The finished product will be an off-dry rosé with bright acid. The merlot grapes came in looking beautiful on September 9th. Minutes after they were picked, we crushed and destemmed them then pressed the juice from the skins right away. Even with pressing off so fast, we were seeing a beautiful pink color. We were a little nervous the color extraction would be more intense than we’d like so we were moving as fast as we could to get the juice separated. Three hours after we received the Merlot, it was processed and in-tank ready to ferment. All went well with the first grapes arriving and processed. We were off to a fabulous start!

Shae smelling the Sashay rosé during fermentation.

We had a bit of a break. We visited the vineyards checking Brix and working with our growers to forecast pick dates. The Brix and acid were moving along nicely and it seemed like it would be a nice consistent flow of wine grapes coming into production. We scheduled to receive Artz Vineyard Semillon, Quintessence Vineyard Merlot, and Malbec and then Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon, Scooteney Flats Merlot, Heart of the Hill Carménère and Red Heaven Syrah.

Marshall Edwards and Greg Frichette tasting the wine grapes in Quintessence Vineyard.

Our plan was to bring in 15 ton over one week and as we press off, we’d bring in the remaining 15 ton. As the first 15 tons of grapes came in, we watched the space in our production facility fill. We used every macro bin to get the grapes into fermentation and every nook and cranny in the facility was taken up. We were relieved that everything fit. A few days later, we saw that the forecast was calling for cooler than normal temperatures. We didn’t anticipate this and were not prepared to pull grapes. We didn’t want to panic, but we were starting to.

We knew we’d need to pull our wine grapes before the cooler temperatures would hit and we only had a couple of days to do so. We were not on a pick schedule and worst, we didn’t have any available pick bins or macro bins to ferment in. We were also struggling with space in the production facility. We were in a bit of a crisis. What started off as an exciting and smooth harvest was taking a turn for crazyville.

We called Marshall in a desperate attempt to urgently plan and with reassurance and confidence, he expressed that he was able to schedule our picks. For wines that were ready to be pressed off, we prepared to do so in order to make space. In the rush of press off we had a couple of spills. It always stings a little to see wine overflowing out of the barrel and running like a fast-moving river into the drain. We had one more spill that day, so we took a few minutes to reset, take a deep breath and step back in. The pressure of figuring out bin and space challenges was getting to us. Then the tide started to turn even more for the better. Our neighbors at Kiona stepped in to loan us bins. Had it not been for the flexibility of Marshall and Kiona, we wouldn’t have gotten our fruit in at the time we needed it and we wouldn’t have had bins to put it in. We would beat the sunrise to start pressing and just as we were finishing up, grapes were arriving on our crush pad.

Beating the cool air, we brought in Petit Verdot, Malbec, Cab Franc from Scooteney Flats Vineyard and Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc from Quintessence Vineyard and Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Path Vineyard. We got these grapes crushed and destemmed in record time, which for us means getting home by midnight.

Wine grapes from #RedPathVIneyard which is in the background.

The next morning, we started the fermentation on these bins. We were relieved to get our wine grapes in but we were running low on energy. After a full day of work, we needed to return the pick bins we borrowed from Marshall. We were instructed to drop them off at a vineyard as they were needed the next day for picking. In the middle of the night, our family hitched up the trailer and loaded the bins. Our son was already in his PJs and was ecstatic to get to be up so late and come along on the vineyard adventure. We unloaded the bins and Greg decided to back out of the vineyard. He turned his head to look out of his driver’s side window but it wasn’t rolled down. There was a big thud. We all laughed so hard. There, in the middle of Heart of the Hill Vineyard, the Frichettes were hysterically laughing. It was a moment we needed. A moment to be reminded that no matter how busy or hectic, stop, and make time to connect and have a little fun. After wiping the tears of laughter, we continued on our way, back up Sunset Road to Frichette Winery.

The 2019 Vintage of wine is in barrel. It’s getting used to its new home, made of oak. The home it will live in for the next 18 – 24 months. As with every vintage we’ve worked with, we are very excited. We probably said, “this fruit is beautiful” more than a hundred times this harvest. Each vintage brings memories of its year, what the climate was like, what the start and finish of the growing season was like. And yet, even with Mother Nature’s influence, the finished product will still taste like its place. We can take meticulous notes on the details of the vintage and the terroir. It can be written down, it can be told, but the best experience is that it can be tasted and enjoyed. We are very excited to get to share the 2019 wines with you in a couple of years. Cheers!

Summary

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