Winemaker Chuck Mulligan working into the night during harvest
This year harvest began on September 4th, just three days after our last bottling of the year. We’d gone through all the equipment, cleaned the crusher and press, lubed them and checked their operation. Everything AOK. So, we brought in Syrah for our Rosato Vivo, loaded up the press, chose the pressing program and hit start………NOTHING. WHAT?! ?#$@&!* What to do? Call the emergency number for Criveller (company that manufactured our press)! In a few minutes, I was connected with John, a technician from Canada. To make a long story short, over the next few hours, John talked me through a trouble shooting procedure and we finally discovered the issue—a small safety switch that was bad. John then talked me through a process to bypass the switch and get the press operational. Finally, we started pressing the rosé. Three hours later, after clean up, Brian and I headed home. After a good night’s sleep, we felt ready to take on day two of harvest which was bringing in 7.5 tons of Zinfandel, and oh yeah, ordering a new switch for the press (shipped overnight)!
With harvest there are NO GUARANTEES. Equipment breaks, people get sick, Mother Nature, well, she’s Mother Nature. Speaking of Mother Nature, she was toying at throwing a monkey wrench into the works throughout this season. The third week in September, nights began to get cold—on a couple of nights temperatures dropped down to 39°. SCARY! Grape vines will go dormant at the first sign of a good frost. And once that happens, no more ripening. The next few days you could see low lying vines turning brown where the cold air collected. We were lucky that the vineyards we contract from escaped her freezing touch. But Mother Nature played with us again in early October. Temperatures dipped into the 30°s again for five nights in a row. In fact, fruit was coming in so cold that it was extending fermentation time. And Mother Nature wasn’t done yet. Temperatures again dipped into 30°s during mid-October. On October 13th, the day we brought in our Merlot, the low in Paso Robles was 31°. And I was biting my nails because we still had Petit Verdot and Malbec coming in. We brought in those grapes in the next few days to wrap up harvest. No problem! Just your “normal” harvest!