First light, September 7, 2016, the picking crew arrives at the vineyard to harvest the first fruit of the season. A beautiful block of Chardonnay as well as Pinot Noir that are ripe and ready to be fermented into another great vintage of Heller Estate Organic Vineyard wine. The berries, still cold from the night air, are handled with care as they are plucked from the vines and transported to the winery. When the grapes arrive, the whole clusters of Chardonnay are loaded directly into the press where they are squeezed lightly to produce a lovely golden colored juice, sweet and aromatic. The Chardonnay juice will spend a couple days in tank settling before starting the fermentation process. Once there is no sugar left in the Chardonnay the very young wine will be racked to barrels, where it will age for at least one year.
Pinot Noir is a rather delicate grape, thin skinned and picky about where it will grow. It is almost unheard of to be able to grow this finicky grape on the same vineyard as the big, more robust varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Petit Verdot. This vineyard is quite special, having different elevations and microclimates, which allows us to grow and produce a tantalizing Pinot Noir. When the Pinot Noir grapes are received at the winery, they go through a de-stemmer to knock the individual berries off the rachis into fermentation bins. They will spend next several days fermenting before being pressed gently to tank. After a couple days of settling the Pinot Noir will be racked to barrel where it will spend the next couple years relaxing and gaining all the lovely characteristics that our Pinot is known for.
On the first day of autumn, September 22, the picking crew is out in the vineyard again harvesting the Chenin Blanc and Riesling in the crisp morning air. It is surprising how cool the weather is for it to only be the first day of fall, but it is a perfect day to pick. Cool weather means that the fruit will stay nice and chilled throughout the day while the bins arrive at the winery and wait to be pressed delicately to tank. The beautiful straw colored juice that streams out of the press fills the air with wonderful aromas.
Currently days here are filled with long hours and constant attention to the future wines, but they are happy days that are also filled with laughter and smiles.
Hope you enjoy the wonderful shipment of delicious Heller Estate wines!
Margot Federkiel, Winemaker