Harvest is the busiest time of year for our Vineyard Manager Dave Vella, who has been guiding our farming efforts since 1985. Read below to learn about past Montelena harvests and see how he expects this upcoming harvest to unfold.
Which harvest has been the most memorable for you and why?
The vintage of 1985 was my first harvest at Chateau Montelena. There was a lot to learn. Observing the ripening procession of the different soil blocks. Recognizing the flavors of the fruit when everything comes together and the grapes are ready to harvest. The comradery I first experienced working hand in hand with the vineyard and cellar crews. Recognizing that at Chateau Montelena everybody was like a big family pulling together for a common goal. Back then and still today, sales and office folks would help us out. As we approach the vintage of 2019, I look forward to that day when the flavors of the grapes make me smile and I say to myself, here we go again.
What is the most rewarding part of harvest?
The most rewarding part of harvest is probably tasting the wines. The Chateau Montelena Estate is a world-class site for red wines and everything we do is in the interest of maximizing that potential. There is certainly a sense of pride in tasting the fruit of our efforts.
Actually, the most satisfying part of harvest is getting the last grape into the winery. After all, grape growing is farming and Mother Nature is always looming. Frost and hail during the spring and rain at harvest are always at the back of your mind, not to mention fire! It is always a relief to complete harvest.
Do you have any expectations for the 2019 harvest based on your experience with prior years? When do you predict harvest to kick off this year?
I always knock on wood when I answer questions like this. At this point in the growing season, veraison (pictured above when the grapes start to get color) is happening. The vines are healthy and the crop levels looks good, so I expect average yields. Not likely to be an early harvest. The season started out late and slow but we have had good growing days and have caught up quite a bit. If Mother Nature cooperates (knock knock), I would expect our Chardonnay harvest to start early September.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about harvest but should?
One of the questions that I am asked the most is “Why do you harvest at night/early morning?” The answer is because the grapes are most stable when they are cold and the cold temperature helps to maintain the freshness of the grapes, especially important with the whites. Cold fruit also means more control and less chance of wild yeast fermentation. It is all about quality and night picking assists in producing the highest quality wines.
Have your own question for Dave? Ask us on social via our handle @chmontelena. In the meantime, keep an eye open for our next installment of The Harvest Journal.