Tag Archives: harvest

2018 Harvest Sneak Peak

Elli checking the vineyard. Are the grapes ready yet?

The 2018 harvest has started, and the early returns are … delicious. At least so says our granddaughter Elli, shown above while helping her father Brandon (Winemaker B at Armida) check the Pinot Noir and Zinfandel grapes at Parmalee Hill Vineyard in Sonoma County.

Brandon gave a quick summary of the harvest expectations the other night over dinner.

Summer weather was good. No prolonged hot spells, especially near the end of summer, that can throw off the ripening of the grapes. Also, no hot spells in sight for the next couple of weeks. This is producing a slower start to the harvest, as some of the varietals, especially the early ripening varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, are taking longer to ripen. Interestingly, the early Sauvignon Blanc came in at about the same dates as last year, and seems really good. We’ve tasted the juice, and agree: wonderful!

The slower ripening means longer hang time (total time on the vine), and this can result in enhanced flavors in the grapes.

Brandon is cautiously optimistic, although he did say something like this could end up being the best vintage of the decade, especially for the big reds like Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

Of course, this is just his opinion, and he’s focused on Sonoma County and Dry Creek Valley specifically, so we’ll see how things go over the next 8-10 weeks.



Armida Harvest 2016

Maple Vineyards, Maggie's Block, Zinfandel grapes

Maple Vineyards, Maggie’s Block, Zinfandel grapes

Now that I’m living up in the wine country, it seems appropriate that I spend some time helping our older son – Brandon, aka Winemaker B – with harvest. So last week found me spending a few hours sorting grapes at Armida Winery. They received that day about 8 tons of grapes from the “Maggie’s Block” of Maple Vineyards. Maple is one of the oldest Zinfandel vineyards in Dry Creek Valley, with the original blocks, such as Tina’s Block, going back 85 years or so. Armida typically makes both a Tina’s Block Zinfandel and a generic Maple Vineyards Zinfandel, provided the yield from Tina’s Block gives enough juice and the quality is high.

When we’re sorting the grapes, we’re removing bunches with any mold on them, but otherwise letting most grapes through, even some that have gone a bit raisiny. From the sorting table, the grapes are moved mechanically into the de-stemmer, and from there are pumped into a tank. The grape skins will break during this process, and yield most of their juice. Initial fermentation then takes place in the tank, with juice and skins together, for around 10-14 days. At that time the skins are pressed to get out the rest of the juice/wine, and the liquid is moved from the tank into barrels to complete the fermentation and initial aging process.

I’ve helped with sorting once or twice before, but it had been a few years, and I’d forgotten that this is real work. Fun though, to be part of the process this year.

Armida Winery tasting room.

Armida Winery tasting room.

Some quick harvest notes:

Winemaker B says that the quantity and quality of grapes that they’ve gotten in so far is pretty normal; looks like a good year. Although he did comment that the Maggie’s Block grapes that we sorted looked the best he’s ever seen. Also, sugar levels have been more consistent than usual in the Zinfandel, which should lead to some really nice wines.

I smelled the tanks for the Tina’s Block Zinfandel, and the Armida Il Campo (their estate grown field blend of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah). The Il Campo, as always, smelled big and bold, like a classic Dry Creek Valley Zin blend. The Tina’s Block smelled completely different. It already has some complexity in the nose, some subtleties, that bode well for a beautiful Zinfandel with many layers, needing some years to age and get to its full potential. We’ll see how these turn out in 12 months or so.



Blessing of the Grapes in Livermore Valley

Grapes are getting ready at Garré Winery.

Grapes are getting ready at Garré Winery.

This week I attended the annual Blessing of the Grapes in Livermore Valley. The event was held at Garré Winery.

Blessing of the Grapes ceremony in Livermore Valley

Blessing of the Grapes ceremony in Livermore Valley

Up front for the event were, left to right,

Rabbi Larry Milder, Congregation Beth Emek, Pleasanton
Father Mark Wiesner, St. Charles Borromeo, Livermore
Chris Chandler, Executive Direction, Livermore Valley Winegrowers Assocation
Pastor Steve Wilde, First Presbyterian Church, Livermore
Gina Molinaro-Cardera, Garré Winery

Pastor Wilde talked about the need for help from above for a successful harvest: sun, soil, rain and more all need to come together for the grapes to grow.

Father Wiesner talked about the many connections between grapes, wine and the Catholic faith.

Rabbi Milder pointed out that Noah is the first person to plant grapes and make wine (Genesis 9:20-21). He also told us about the Jewish prayer for wine, which essentially thanks G-d for creating the fruit of the vine. Finally, he led us in the traditional Jewish toast, “L’Chaim”, which means To Life.



I hadn’t been to Garré in a few years. It has always been a nice place to visit, especially for lunch, since they have a nice café. They also have bocce courts, which are fun for adults and good to keep kids entertained. They also have recently built a new event center. We had Garré wine as part of the event, and it seems to me that we should go back for a more formal tasting at the winery.

Also, the next major event in the Livermore Valley is the Harvest Wine Celebration, taking place over Labor Day Weekend. If you’re around, this is a great way to spend a day. Wineries will have their wines for tasting, and also fresh food vendors, local artisans and music. You do need a ticket; best to purchase online from the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.