Harvest Fun

The 2015 Cornerstone Oregon harvest team

The 2015 Cornerstone Oregon harvest team

It always happens. I tell someone we're harvesting or I have a pick in the morning and they say, "have fun!"

Harvest is many things: inspiring, rewarding, fulfilling, exciting, meaningful, exhausting, but it one thing it isn't is fun. At least not if it’s your life and your living. It may be fun to work a harvest or chip in for a few days, but if you have to take that fruit, make wine, bottle it and sell it fun is not part of the equation. Harvest is the worst thing and the best thing that happens to you every year if you want to make wine that means something. Making great wine is not fun, it's an obsession. Most of all it is intensely rewarding, not financially, but somehow, spiritually.

The mental and physical exhaustion that is harvest is what wells up inside of you when someone asks you about how many points your wine received from some critic, but then you remind yourself it's a lot easier to make opinions than it is to make wine.

It's hard to describe the intensity that we focus on our wines. The hours and hours of walking the vineyards and agonizing over every little choice that is made in the sometimes years long path a wine takes from the flowering in spring until it has the Cornerstone Cellars label applied to its bottle.

The experience of each harvest may not be fun, but the memory of it most certainly is as each moment comes back to life with every cork you pull of that vintage for years to come.

Worth it? You bet.

Harvest Fun

The 2015 Cornerstone Oregon harvest team

The 2015 Cornerstone Oregon harvest team

It always happens. I tell someone we're harvesting or I have a pick in the morning and they say, "have fun!"

Harvest is many things: inspiring, rewarding, fulfilling, exciting, meaningful, exhausting, but it one thing it isn't is fun. At least not if it’s your life and your living. It may be fun to work a harvest or chip in for a few days, but if you have to take that fruit, make wine, bottle it and sell it fun is not part of the equation. Harvest is the worst thing and the best thing that happens to you every year if you want to make wine that means something. Making great wine is not fun, it's an obsession. Most of all it is intensely rewarding, not financially, but somehow, spiritually.

The mental and physical exhaustion that is harvest is what wells up inside of you when someone asks you about how many points your wine received from some critic, but then you remind yourself it's a lot easier to make opinions than it is to make wine.

It's hard to describe the intensity that we focus on our wines. The hours and hours of walking the vineyards and agonizing over every little choice that is made in the sometimes years long path a wine takes from the flowering in spring until it has the Cornerstone Cellars label applied to its bottle.

The experience of each harvest may not be fun, but the memory of it most certainly is as each moment comes back to life with every cork you pull of that vintage for years to come.

Worth it? You bet.

Harvest Napa Valley – Half-Empty or Half-Full? 9/17/15

Harvest Napa Valley - Half-Empty or Half-Full? 9/17/15

Harvesting 2015 Oakville Station Cabernet Franc at dawn

I couldn’t believe my eyes as the last bin was lifted off the scale and they handed me the weight tag. I blinked in disbelief as I read 2.25 tons. That was less than half of what we picked from this vineyard last year.

Making things even more painful was that this was not just any vineyard, it was our Oakville Station Cabernet Franc block. We just had just bottled the 2013 Cornerstone Cellars Oakville Cabernet Franc, Oakville Station Vineyard and there were only 101 cases from that banner vintage. A small amount of this exceptional cabernet franc is used in the blends for Michael’s Cuvée and The Cornerstone, but we save enough to bottle as a single vineyard as this is one of the most distinctive cabernet vineyards in the world and to not let it sing its own song would be a sin. The 2015 Cornerstone Cellars Oakville Cabernet Franc, Oakville Station Vineyard could end up being less than fifty cases.

This one of those situations when you find out if you are a optimist or pessimist - a half-empty or half-full glass sort of person. The half-empty of this situation is the small amount of fruit harvested, the half-full is what little we got is of exceptional quality. We’ll take the half-full side of this situation as quality is always more important (and more delicious) than quantity.

A little very welcome rain fell on the Napa Valley yesterday hopefully giving the firefighters a little help in their struggle against the Valley Fire. For us that meant no fruit today, but tomorrow we’ll be harvesting Grigsby Syrah in the Yountville AVA.

It will be full speed ahead now until the end of harvest. Yields will obviously continue to be light, but we’ll keep our glass half-full outlook.

Harvest Napa Valley – Half-Empty or Half-Full? 9/17/15

Harvesting 2015 Oakville Station Cabernet Franc at dawn

I couldn’t believe my eyes as the last bin was lifted off the scale and they handed me the weight tag. I blinked in disbelief as I read 2.25 tons. That was less than half of what we picked from this vineyard last year.

Making things even more painful was that this was not just any vineyard, it was our Oakville Station Cabernet Franc block. We just had just bottled the 2013 Cornerstone Cellars Oakville Cabernet Franc, Oakville Station Vineyard and there were only 101 cases from that banner vintage. A small amount of this exceptional cabernet franc is used in the blends for Michael’s Cuvée and The Cornerstone, but we save enough to bottle as a single vineyard as this is one of the most distinctive cabernet vineyards in the world and to not let it sing its own song would be a sin. The 2015 Cornerstone Cellars Oakville Cabernet Franc, Oakville Station Vineyard could end up being less than fifty cases.

This one of those situations when you find out if you are a optimist or pessimist - a half-empty or half-full glass sort of person. The half-empty of this situation is the small amount of fruit harvested, the half-full is what little we got is of exceptional quality. We’ll take the half-full side of this situation as quality is always more important (and more delicious) than quantity.

A little very welcome rain fell on the Napa Valley yesterday hopefully giving the firefighters a little help in their struggle against the Valley Fire. For us that meant no fruit today, but tomorrow we’ll be harvesting Grigsby Syrah in the Yountville AVA.

It will be full speed ahead now until the end of harvest. Yields will obviously continue to be light, but we’ll keep our glass half-full outlook.

Harvest Napa Valley 9/11/15 I’m Down

Harvesting Oakville Station Merlot

Harvesting Oakville Station Merlot

"I'm down, I'm really down, How can you laugh..."

It's true across the board in the Napa Valley. We're going to make a lot less wine than we have the last several vintages as the crop yield in Napa is down, really down. From what we've seen so far we will be down thirty to forty percent this year and more in some vineyards. That means a drop from 5,000 cases to around 3,500. Ouch! For example last year's 500 cases of Corallina Syrah Rosé will be around 250 cases in 2015.

On Friday we picked three vineyards:

  • Oakville Station Merlot, Oakville AVA
  • Hazen Merlot, Yountville AVA
  • Pokai Cabernet Franc, Calistoga AVA

While there may not much fruit, we got less than five tons from each, what there was tasted wonderful with deep, sweet flavors and bright acidity. Very, very, promising.

Just a word on this week's heat spell, while we could have done without it, September heat spikes are quite normal in the Napa Valley. It did put stress on the vines, but at this point they are focusing the little energy they have left to ripen their seeds not make more sugar. With this upcoming cooler weather and some judicious irrigation the remaining fruit (which is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon) will be refreshed and brix levels should drop slightly. As we are always intensely concerned about our levels of acidity you can bet we will be picking very soon as possible extended hang times are not our style.

As I write this I'm on a flight up to Oregon to pick our chardonnay and pinot noir. Our next pick in Napa is scheduled for next Wednesday when Oakville Station Cabernet Franc will come in. After that pick is done we'll be out sampling our Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards and setting the dates when they'll be harvested. It really seems that we'll be done in both states by the end of September.