In The Vineyard – Harvest Time at Miner

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    by Emily Miner

    Photo by Clay McLachlan, Claypix.com

    Late summer and fall are excitingly busy times for us here at Miner. Our winemaking crew begins preparing for the onslaught of grapes as early as July, when wines are bottled to make room for the upcoming harvest and equipment is readied for crush time.

    While the cellar is humming with activity, our winemaker Gary Brookman and assistant winemaker Jennifer Rue are keeping a watchful eye on the vineyards. Veraison, a major turning point in the growing season, refers to the change that takes place in the lifecycle of vine in which the focus moves from growth to sugar accumulation. The color change that takes place during the grape ripening process — green grapes soften and turn yellow or red — indicates that the grapes are beginning to get sweet and the acid is decreasing. Harvest usually begins around 6 to 8 weeks after verasion. But the timing of every stage in the winegrowing process is always dependent on Mother Nature and her “moods†that particular year.

    The start of September, Gary and Jennifer are out in the vineyards “field sampling†—  taking samples from all over the vineyard to check on the sugar, acid and pH. Samples are brought back to the winery and analyzed in the lab to give us a snapshot of the overall health of the vineyard. The final decision to harvest is made by tasting the grapes. Almost daily during harvest Gary and Jennifer hike through numerous blocks of each vineyard tasting for flavors that are fully developed. Harvesting pre-maturely when the seeds are still green can lead to wines that are bitter and overly tannic. Brown seeds that are crunchy are a good indicator that the fruit has achieved full ripeness.

    Crush usually kicks off with the arrival of the first bins of Viognier trucked up from vineyards in Madera. Close behind or often at the same time, comes the harvest of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay sourced from our Napa Valley neighbors. When harvest time arrives in Mendocino, growers provide us with stellar Sangiovese fruit. As with the white varietals, our reds have variable harvest times depending on the weather conditions. Throughout the year our vineyard sources are meticulously cared for by our partner growers. Picking is all done by hand. We work closely with all the vineyard owners to ensure that the fruit they grow for us meets the high quality standards we expect and require for our wines.

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