Our first harvest began Saturday 9/27/14 at 7:08 am. Wayne O’Connell was in charge with the help of our vineyard management company, Mark Neal & Sons. Mitch Cosentino, our consulting winemaker, had tasted the fruit several times during the week to check skin flavor development and seed maturity. The perfect moment arrived to pick the Petite Verdot Block, the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Apple Sub-blocks 1 and Olive Sub-block 1. Every year, each block is analyzed for ripening patterns and we only pick an area when it is at its perfect stage.
The crew waits for dawn to begin harvest. Threatening clouds hung in the sky, but no rain came. Once the visibility was good, the harvest crew started dropping fruit into 40-pound bins, which are dumped into ½ ton bins. They work quickly to harvest before the heat of the days rises.
The picking crew began with the rows nearest the majestic allee of Eucalyptus trees. The slight introduction of flavors imparted by Eucalyptus and neighboring Lavender is a signature flavor component of the O’Connell Family Vineyards Double Gold winning Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Gabrielle Collection Cabernets. Artful and skillful winemaking crafts these distinctive wines and that begins in the vineyard with careful segregation of fruit in identified sub-blocks. Each will be separately fermented.
When full, the bins get weighed, then loaded onto the truck destined to our crush facility in beautiful Pope Valley.
Harvest was completed at 11:30 am, and the truck was off to the winery for crush. Our crush facility is located in Pope Valley, about a 45-minute drive. The serenity of this beautiful valley juxtaposes the activity of crush. As eagles quietly soared above, the crusher destemmer rhythmically processed the grapes supported by the skillful activity of the crush team.
The new state of the art Pellenc Selectiv’ Destemmer from France was amazing to watch. Gently but rapidly, it pulls each grape from the stem, extracts the seed, and the still intact grape rolls down a tray into a collection bin. A hose connected to the bin transports the fruit into a 1-ton fermentation bin gently pushed by air pressure.
The stems are expelled into another bin, the seeds into a bucket, both destined for the compost pile, to make future fertilizer for the vineyard. Since we are sustainable the stems and the seeds that were discarded in the de-stemming process will be transported back to the vineyard and turned into compost. We pride ourselves in our organic and sustainable practices to reintroduce the grape processing by products back into the vineyard itself as fertilizer.
The gentle approach by the Pellinc crusher destemmer avoids oxidation before fermentation, preserving delicate layers of flavors to produce another award winning premium wine.