The scoop about Harvest ’23
October has come, and we are finally well-immersed in harvest! Typically, we begin harvesting by the end of August, however, this year we didn’t pick our first fruit until Sept. 19th. “This is the latest harvest I’ve experienced in my 26 years!” said Chad, our Head Winegrower. Let’s explore this year’s phenomenon…
This uncharacteristically late harvest began earlier this year with a colder-than-average and rainy winter, which delayed the vines’ stage of budbreak, activated when they wake up from dormancy. Note our average annual rainfall of 11.5 inches was more than tripled this year at 36.25 inches!
The increased rainfall led to a wet, cold spring (and lack of sunshine), moving into what we So Cal folks call “May gray” and “June gloom,” which delayed, elongated and weakened the early summer stage of flowering, offering a light yield. This is a perfect example of how the environment needs to be ‘just right’ for sensitive pinot noir to set a healthy crop.
While the rain is certainly welcomed here to cleanse the soil, fill the water table and relieve drought, it can also create a moist environment, presenting a high “mildew pressure” (the potential for mildew to develop). To address this, we opened up the canopy by hand for ventilation, letting in sun and wind, then applied a preventative organic spray.
We can’t stress enough the importance of owning and farming our own land to be able to monitor situations like these, and grow quality fruit. (Chad checks the weather 8 times a day!) Luckily, our vines are old enough to handle adversity, and with our detailed attention, we are pleased to report that even though the yields of Harvest ’23 are low, Chad says the quality of the fruit is “EXCEPTIONAL.” (yep, he’s excited!)
“With the vineyard developing slowly over the course of the growing season, we were able to achieve the maturity of the fruit at a slow pace, which leads to a remarkable flavor development, balance and elegance,” he explained. “I look forward to experiencing the ‘23 vintage.”
Our vineyard crew is led by Ignacio“Nacho” Padilla Mares, who’s been at Melville for over 20 years.
“Harvest is progressing as expected,” said Chad. “So far we’ve brought in about 1/3 of our pinot noir and little bit of chardonnay…things are calm here and we’re waiting for the right conditions to pick more. You know, the decision of when to pick is THE most important decision in the art of winemaking,” he explained. (That’s quite a statement if you think about it!)
“There’s a lot of pressure upon winemakers about this and I’ve learned in my 26 years not to fall prey to the pressure, but to let Mother Nature take her course. This year’s harvest feels like a perfect landing in an airplane—when the plane descends smoothly and gradually, then lets down so softly you hardly feel the wheels upon the ground…you’ve seamlessly arrived.”
Our cellar crew has been up in the early morning hours receiving the fruit, processing and filling the fermenters…followed by punch downs and more punch downs. Led by Chad, this foot-stomping team consists of Harvest Master Lee DelMartini (his 18th harvest with Chad) our Assistant Winegrower Britt Rogers (her 4th harvest with Chad) and our two Harvest ‘23 interns, Lindsay Reed and Ruby Nicholson-Kelly.
Harvest is a wonderful time to visit the winery and explore our vineyards…make a reservation here.