Amber True
September 30, 2017 | De Tierra Blog | Amber True

Harvest Update: Russell Estate

Around this time every year, harvest is a popular topic in a wine lover’s life. Whether you drink, make, or sell wine, harvest is a big deal! It is one of the busiest and most exciting times for a winery and its customers. So, to ease everyone’s mind, here is a harvest update from De Tierra Vineyards! 
Pinot Noir was harvested a few weeks ago on the Russell Estate. We received about 11 tons of Pinot, or 30 barrels worth, making 2017 our largest harvest of Pinot Noir ever! Chardonnay is next, and will be picked around the first week of October. We suspect that our Merlot is still about a month away from harvest. The Cabernet Franc will follow, which will be harvested in another month and a half. Mid-Fall harvest of Merlot and Cabernet Franc is normal, heavier varietals take longer to ripen. 
Grape yields are up this year, about 40% more than last year, although we started harvest about two to three weeks later this year than last. The cause for such a late harvest could be due to the wet winter we had and the higher yields that were a result from the rain. The higher the yields, or more fruit on the vine, the longer the grapes have to develop and ripen to get the appropriate sugar level.   
Before harvest, grapes go through veraison. Veraison is the changing of color in the grapes, which marks the onset of ripening. During veraison, the grapes start to ripen and sugar level starts to increase and the acid level decreases. Veraison can last anywhere from a few weeks to over a month. 
The closer the vines get to harvest, winemakers and vineyard managers need to pay close attention to the sugar levels, or brix. Brix is the measurement of sugar that will potentially turn into alcohol. Every gram of sugar that is fermented will turn into a half gram of alcohol, this is important to know when making wine in order to achieve the right alcohol level. If you harvest a Chardonnay at about 24 brix, it will have about 13.5-14% alcohol after fermentation. Right before harvest, grapes are constantly being tested for brix levels using a refractometer, which will tell crews when it is time to pick. A refractometer is a device used in the vineyard to test the grapes for their brix levels. A refractometer has a glass prism at one end to refract light through  liquid. Single berries are crushed onto the glass piece; light refracts through the juice and gives a reading of sugar concentration. When the grapes hit their desired brix level, it's finally time to harvest! 
Grapes can be harvested in a few ways, by machine or by hand. All grapes on the Russell Estate are handpicked, which is the most delicate way to harvest. While workers snip each cluster from the vine, they take special care to ensure the grapes are not crushed or damaged – already crushed or damaged fruit can lead to early fermentation or bacterial growth. This is especially important for thin skinned grapes, like Pinot Noir. Once grapes are harvested, they are sent to our winery to be crushed, pressed, and fermented where they will be made into wine! Stay tuned for another blog post about fermentation.  


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