November 9, 2011
After a whirlwind of travel during September and October, The Wine Sisterhood is finally back in the Napa Clubhouse, reaping the benefits of fall in the Napa Valley. Why is Napa Valley so special this time of year? Well let’s see – winery harvest parties, the St. Helena pet parade, and the smell of fermenting grapes wafting up and down the valley….just to name a few.
And this year we were lucky enough to get an invite to swing by Venge Vineyards to experience harvest first hand. Venge Vineyards is where our good friend Mac Watson collaborates with childhood friend and winemaker Kirk Venge to create his own personal label – Macauley Vineyards. Kirk and Mac have been working together on the project since 2001, producing stellar Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
For those of you who don’t know, Venge Vineyards winery is a 12 acre estate located just south of Calistoga. It is a beautiful property that sits on the Northeastern foothills of the Palisades mountain range. You can visit Venge by making a pre-arranged appointment by contacting them at http://www.vengevineyards.com/Contact-Us. If you’d like to also request a tasting of Macauley wines, you can reach them here: http://www.macauleyvineyard.com/schedule-a-tasting.html. Please let them know that you are a friend of The Wine Sisterhood!
On the day we arrived, we were lucky enough to get to see the crush pad in full working order. Grape bins filled with beautiful little Cabernet Sauvignon berries from the famed Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard in Oakville – about as Napa as you can get.
The harvest crew was busy, unloading the bins (one at a time) onto the sorter conveyor belt, where the grapes were being hand sorted to pull out anything unwanted. Things that are unwanted are: stems, bruised or shriveled berries, leaves, etc. This assures that only ripe, healthy fruit makes it into the tanks for fermentation. On our visit, we were only able to witness this portion of the winemaking process, but to know what happens next, keep reading.
After the sorting process the fruit is transferred to a tank for cold soaking of the grapes and any free-run juice. This helps extract any additional colors and flavors from the grape skins. To begin fermentation, a combination of cultured and wild yeasts are added to the tank.
Once fermentation begins, the free-run juice is continuously mixed back in with the berries, to assure that all of the flavors are extracted. When ready, the wine is transferred to a combination of new and used French barrels where it lives for 9-27 months, depending on varietal and vintage. After it’s life in the barrel the wine is bottled, and then ready for all of us wine enthusiasts to enjoy…cheers!!!
Visiting the Napa Valley during harvest can be a very educational experience, and if one ever has the chance, take it! If you have any additional questions about harvest, winemaking, or visiting the Napa Valley, please feel free to contact us at The Wine Sisterhood. We love to help!
Until next time…
Wine Sister Natalie