Harvest is a special time of year. It's the culmination of cultivation; the time to reap and realize the prize of all of our hard work in the vineyard. We harvest our treasured crop and shepherd it through a magical metamorphosis from raw fruit into bottles of wine that we can confidently deem worthy of our labels.
2016 has the early makings of an astonishing year at Old Westminster. The season began cool and wet which can be a bit worrisome, but we’re grateful to report that we were spared of any early catastrophes. While many vineyards – particularly those to the south of us – endured frost, hail, and damaging winds this year, our crops escaped unaffected.
Because things were wet early in the season, we were particularly diligent with our canopy management. Sun and wind are nature's antibiotics. Since early August we've had these in spades with borderline drought conditions. In some scenarios, excessive heat may slow vine development, photosynthesis, and vine respiration. But we noticed no such effect. The vines are clean and healthy, the grapes are vibrant and well on their way to full maturity.
At this point, the table is set. We continue to be diligent with our chores and monitor the physiological ripeness of our grapes to determine the optimal time to pick. Sure, we track sugars and acidity – but we do much more than that – we visually inspect the vineyard, we kick the vine's trunk and see if berries drop to the ground. We taste the fruit, chew the seeds, note the texture of the pulp and toughness of the skins; we assess the flavor development and aroma and pontificate about the wine to come.
Why does the quality of our grapes get us so excited? Because beautiful grapes are the only ingredient in a great bottle of wine.
The process of making great wine is simple: grow ripe, flavorful grapes and shepherd them carefully through fermentation, aging, and bottling. That's it in a nutshell.
But as simple as it is, it's certainly not easy. At the end of the day, we're farmers. We battle weather, fungus, insects, and wildlife. We are tireless because we know a great bottle of wine reflects its maker's hard work and creativity.
A wine is only as good as the grapes that go into it. It's sort of like guacamole... ever tried to make guac from an under-ripe avocado? It's awful. No amount of salt, pepper, onions, or lime juice can save it. Wine is much the same way. If the grapes are ripe and flavorful, the winemaker ought to have a light hand, let the grapes flaunt their stuff. But if the grapes are under-ripe or worse, no amount of manipulation can save it.
That's why everything is done by hand at Old Westminster. From winter pruning to summer hedging to harvest, every step of our process is powered by sweat, not oil. This method of farming offers our vines and wines the diligent care they deserve. Our fingerprints are on every vine, every grape, and every bottle. And we’re eager to share our hard work with you.
We’ll see you in the tasting room soon!