Harvest has finally started! Since early this summer we knew that we were tracking about four weeks behind last year. Which has proved to be true. In 2022 we brought in our first grapes on August 30th and this year 2023, our first grapes were harvested on September 27th. Very close to the four-week time frame! We will continue to pick into October hoping that the rain will stay at bay. The quality this year looks to be exceptional.
A bin of the first Pinot Noir grapes of the year
To make great wine, we start with world class Russian River Valley Pinot grapes. Those grapes are gently destemmed and transferred to an “open top” fermentation tank. These tanks are specially designed to ferment red wine in the most optimum way. You see, all the color and most of the flavor components are in the skins of the grapes. The fermentation tanks are shaped in a way to maximize the surface area of skin to juice contact.
Freshly destemmed Pinot Noir in an open top fermenter
Once the grapes are in the tank, we will hold the grapes at fifty degrees Fahrenheit for five days. This technique is called a cold soak. The lower temperature keeps the fermentation from starting. During this phase we mix the grapes three times a day by doing a “punch down” in the tank. We have a specific tool which utilizes a large paddle to force grapes down and around in the tank. The cold soak phase allows a gentle extraction of aromas and flavors prior to the fermentation starting. As the fermentation starts and alcohol is created, the alcohol acts as a solvent which can bring out harsher tannins from the seeds and skins. By front loading our extraction phase we end up with smother, softer wines.
Punch down on a Pinot Noir fermenter
After the cold soak phase, we’ll heat the tanks up and kick off the fermentation. The grapes will be in the tanks for a total of seventeen to eighteen days. As of writing this we have not started any fermentations and all the grapes are in the cold soak phase. Wish us luck going into a very late but exceptional harvest!
On behalf of the entire team here at River Road Family Vineyards And Winery, we wish you all continued good health!