Russian River Valley harvest. “The picking starts at midnight and continues until sunrise. The fruit comes into the winery in waves, where it’s hand-sorted, destemmed and moved into open top tanks. Punchdowns happen around the clock. There is coffee, so much strong coffee. There’s that moment when your shoes are still soaked from processing fruit the morning prior (or was it the day before that?), and you start to wonder if it’s possible to sleep on a forklift,” says EnRoute Winemaker Andrew Delos. Grinning, he adds, “And on top of it all, we have to miss the first four weekends of college football.”
Harvest in the Russian River Valley is not like an episode of I Love Lucy, although it certainly helps to enter into the picking season with your sense of humor and comedy intact. Honestly, our EnRoute winemaking crew lives and breathes this stuff. Which is good, because this year, our Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay harvest lasted for 46 consecutive days.
Now, the winery is full of post-harvest activity. There are tanks to be drained, skins to be pressed and wines to be barreled down. In the midst of the activity, Andrew graciously touches on the high points of EnRoute Harvest 2016:
Describe this year’s growing season. The 2016 season started very early due to a warm spring and an early summer. Then, in August, everything cooled down for 10 days and harvest halted. Warm weather returned and harvest came fast and furious.
What’s your hands-down favorite thing about harvest? I love smelling the wonderful aromas of fermentation almost as much as I love the camaraderie our crew builds by working so many long and arduous hours together.
What’s the hardest and/or most frustrating thing about harvest? The long hours and strenuous physical activities. Convincing your body to move when it’s so darned tired! That, and also the terrible music that some of the interns listen to.
What are you absolutely loving about this vintage so far? There’s a wonderful purity of fruit and the wines are already showing a really enticing floral perfume. It’s too early to make a call on mouthfeel, but the aromatics are very promising.
What are your expectations for this vintage of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir? Our EnRoute Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley "Les Pommiers" will be a great follow up to the 2014 and 2015 vintages, with a more refined and delicate aromatic profile and an elegant expression of the Russian River Valley. Our EnRoute Single-Vineyard Pinots also promise to be expressive and show a beautiful transparency of site.
When harvest wraps, what’s the first thing you plan to do? Decorate my house with tons of Halloween décor. Go to the coast for some oysters and clam chowder. Eat lots of comfort food in the cold weather.
“In many ways, harvest tests you, Andrew says, “however, we wouldn’t trade the two am punchdowns, the pumpovers, the failed attempts at sleep on the office couch, and the barreling down of harvest for anything. At the end of it all, we get to taste the literal fruits of our labor. And man, it tastes good!”
Want to be the first to taste our next vintage of EnRoute Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, “Les Pommiers,” and our collection of Single-Vineyard Pinot Noir? Explore two exciting options.
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