Thursday, September 30, 2010
A picturesque Napa harvest morning
There are many blessings for us to be thankful for - and this morning was one of them. It was an absolutely gorgeous Fall day in Napa Valley. A perfect morning for harvesting a small batch of rich, ripe VELLUM Merlot.
We started the pick in the early morning hours, just after the sun rose. But soon the coolness of the night had given way to clear, bright sunlight and very warm temperatures. Most of the winemakers in Napa Valley have fretted about the cool temperatures this summer - but now the heat spell has brought some of the fruit to full maturity.
The Merlot looks and tastes heavenly. The berries are not too large and not too small. The ideal size for a densely colored yet not overly extracted finished wine. The seeds are woody and crunchy. With focused concentration, the skins taste of the essence of raw cocoa. And the pulp is sweet and tangy.
It is important to take great care in minimizing and if possible eliminating Merlot's tendency to show a hint of bitterness in its tannins. And as you can see from the photos above, we have a tried-and-true method of avoiding negative tannin extraction. The answer - - whole berry fermentation. No crushing. No purple feet. No macerated grape skins.
We always harvest our fruit by hand, sort by hand and gently remove the berries from the stems before placing them in the fermentation tanks. The Merlot never sees a pump during fermentation and is treated with the greatest of care until it is placed in French oak barrels for aging.
Merlot is a grape that can easily go from good to bad - depending on how you treat the fermentation. And the grapes need the touch of a delicate hand from the vine to the barrel.
Some of our winery visitors have tasted the Merlot before it was combined with Cabernet and Petit Verdot in VELLUM's final blend. Our Merlot always surprises our guests with its suppleness, balanced structure and powdery tannins. In the photos from today's harvest you can see how the wine gets its start. There is reason and thought behind the winemaking methods that create VELLUM's signature style.
And perhaps - after a few weeks of fermentation - we will enjoy yet another vintage of fine Merlot, perfectly prepared for our 2010 VELLUM Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Jeff Mathy, Proprietor