TEMECULA VALLEY SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY HARVEST SEASON
Some call it the most magical time of the year, while others look upon it as the culmination of months of labor. Whichever way you view it, Harvest Season is upon us here in Southern California's Temecula Valley.
Visitor look forward to Harvest as a time to celebrate another year of their favorite wines, and attend ‘Crush' celebrations and Grape Stomps where they can bring out their ‘inner Lucy'. But don't forget to give a thought or two for those hardworking people behind the scenes.
Harvest is a time of anticipation, excitement, creativity and sleepless nights for over 40 wineries located in the Temecula wine region. Cellars have been buzzing with preparation: bottling, cleaning tanks and barrels, ordering supplies and checking the all-important winemaking equipment like crusher-destemers, presses and pumps.
For many weeks before the harvest actually begins, winemakers will have spent hours walking the vineyards and checking on each vine's progress. Berries will be tasted, and samples will be collected.
Today's winemaker has a host of scientific equipment to help them analyze the juice taken from those random grape samples and many of the local wineries are investing in these devices. They are looking for the development of sugars, known as ‘brix', balanced levels of acidity and maturity: grapes that will show their true character when they become wine.
Blessed with long, sunny days to ripen the fruit, combined with brisk afternoon breezes and cool nighttime temperatures, the grapes are judged ready to pick earlier than many other parts of California. Here, it's not unusual to see the empty bins being stacked on the flatbed trucks and heading out to the vineyards in the last days of July or the beginning of August.
Much of the daily work of harvest is over and done by the time most tasting rooms open their doors. Grapes are picked late at night or early in the morning, under a bright bank of lights spreading like wings from a tractor or truck. This early hour picking keeps both the grapes, and the hard working crews, cool and fresher fruit means better quality wine.
The first varieties to find their way to the winery crush pads are those destined for sparkling wines. Winemakers pick these blocks of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris while the acid level is still quite high ensuring the creation of refreshing, zesty bubblies. White grapes for still wines will come next: Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, Muscat and more, followed by the red varieties. Like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
And how is this year's harvest shaping up? Many of the winemakers in the region have noticed that the yield - the amount of fruit produced by the vines - is lower than average. According to Jon McPherson, Master Winemaker at award winning South Coast Winery, " some varietals look to be as much as 30% off from pervious years." This may be due to the drought we are experiencing here in California and weather conditions during the early stages of the vine's growing cycle. The consensus is this looks to be another amazing and tasty vintage for the valley "every bit as incredible as the 2011 and 2012 vintages" said McPherson.
Now, that's a reason to celebrate Harvest 2015 in Temecula Valley.