One of the things I love most about winemaking is following nature through its seasons. Now that the grapes are harvested, leaves are turning to show the beautiful fall colors and the vines are preparing themselves to start the cycle all over again. This period of time in the vine’s cycle is called senescence, which much like harvest, came early this year. We had a record breaking start date for harvest this year at Arrowood, with Sauvignon blanc being picked on the 14th of August. Chardonnay closely followed, and then red varieties started trickling in. It’s no secret that this year brought a very light crop load.
Due to a cold spring season, the young clusters failed to pollenate and set every grape berry, therefore producing looser and lighter clusters. However, these lower yields along with the nice warm weather during the summer and early fall produced extremely high quality fruit. Fewer tons allowed for great attention to detail in the winery, where no matter how small, every vineyard block was kept separate. This picture below demonstrates small lot winemaking at its finest! Even with our top notch destemmer machine, shorter stems can remain attached to the berries. For our top vineyards, we sort each berry after destemming in macrobins to ensure that nothing but perfect berries end up in the fermenter.
The quality of Cabernet from all three AVAs (Knights Valley, Alexander Valley, and Sonoma Valley) was especially stunning. As my first year working with Sonoma Valley fruit, I spent a considerable amount of early mornings in the vineyards. I absolutely fell in love with the Smothers and Monte Rosso vineyards, working closely with the vineyard team to harvest each section of the vineyard at its peak. The vineyard managers are so key to a successful harvest, working around the clock to ensure that the grapes seamlessly get from the thousands of vines out in the elements and into the winery. Below is a photo of the sunrise at Smothers vineyard after crews had picked by hand on the steep terraces.
As the harvest season comes to a close, it’s also time for us at Arrowood to enjoy the fruits of our labor. While the 2015 vintage is sleeping in barrel, I look forward to sharing the holidays with friends, family, and of course with a few bottles of Arrowood Cabernet. Cheers to another great vintage – I look forward to sharing these wines with you in the coming years!
--Kristina (Werner) Shideler, Winemaker