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Exciting happenings at VIADER as we continue with our night harvesting schedule. Our 2013 harvest officially began two weeks ago on the evening of Monday, September 9th when we brought in a small block of our Syrah. Delia and I were just returning from dinner with some old friends on Spring Mountain. As we approached the winery, we could see in the distance what looked like fireflies in the vineyards under a thin crescent moon. Our harvest crew was wearing headlamps as they skillfully moved in between the vines, quickly picking only the best clusters into their small bins.We have several reasons for picking at night. Predominantly, colder temperatures help protect the fruit at harvest, slowing natural yeast and inhibiting any bacteria growth while preserving the fresh fruit flavors and acids in the grapes. Night temperatures on Howell Mountain and around Napa Valley can drop into the 50′s or 40′s even on summer days when we experience highs in the 90′s.
Within a couple hours of the nighttime harvest, the cold fruit is processed (destemmed and “crushed”) at the winery and then moves to the fermentation tanks where it is again cooled down to 40 degrees. This allows Alan, our second generation winemaker, to to do as long of a “cold soak” as possible and extract more color and distinct flavors from the cold skins. Read more about the cold soak philosophy in these article from Wines & Vines or Wine Spectator.
Secondly, both Delia and Alan have found that our harvest crew works easier in the cooler weather because they are more comfortable. We have less worry or issues with heat illness or dehydration when we avoid picking during the high temperatures that can plague a typical summer day on our fully exposed steep hillside.
Moreover, we discovered that night harvesting also allows us to be more efficient with the daytime schedule at the winery, since we can work on the wines in tank first thing in the morning. Alan Viader shares, “With night harvesting, the fruit comes in early morning (finishing at 3-4am typically) and then we arrive at 6am to crush the fruit before the sun peaks over the top of the mountain while its still cold. That then gives us all day to work the wines in tank.” He prefers this to having to wait for the fruit until late morning or afternoon and then working the wines in tank until late into the evening.Cheers to the 2013 vintage and to a Happy Harvest!
Even as harvest nears ever closer, winemakers Delia and Alan Viader are already booking their post-harvest calendars. At the close of November, the mother-son duo will be traveling to Zurich, Switzerland in order to attend a full vertical of VIADER’s flagship wine! Put together from the private cellar of our good family friend Eugen Haefliger, every bottled vintage of the VIADER Proprietary Red Blend from 1989 to 2010 will be showcased in magnums to an eager audience of European New World wine collectors and local wine writers for a “Cab & Turkey” “Thanksgiving” dinner at Restaurant Braui Hochdorf.
Delia’s first bottled wine was in 1989, three years after literally “breaking ground” on her Howell Mountain estate and planting the first lots of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The shallow soils and the terrain were so rocky and the volcanic bedrock so dense that the vineyard developers initially had to use dynamite to break apart the soil enough to start the vine planting process. The result was our “dynamite vineyard” with vines positioned in rows scaling down the hillside in a European design, maximizing the afternoon sun exposure and the natural drainage provided by the rocky soils. Since the 1990′s, our wines have been well received and imported into Switzerland.
As August draws to a close, Alan is busy doing his diligent maintenance in anticipation of the harvest. Currently, he is checking sugar levels in the grapes and says they’re getting close to where he likes them to be. “The C-block Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc will likely be first to get picked,” says Alan. He noted that some blocks were already at 22-23 degrees Brix (25-26 is the desired level). And because of the recent warm weather, our small plot of Syrah may also be picked first.
Meanwhile, in the caves, Alan and his crew are also busy racking. They are currently racking all 2012’s (VIADER, “V”, VIADER Syrah, and DARE by Viader Cabernet Sauvignon) before the rush of harvest to make room for the 2013 wines that will be coming in. He and Delia are also whirling away at making blends. Alan recently racked & blended a small base or preliminary blend of the 2012 VIADER. He says, “It’s showing great right now but we may be adding or revising the blend in the future.” With the estimated bottling date of summer, 2014, he feels there’s time to watch the development of the wine and possibly make some small changes. In addition, he and Delia recently blended the 2012 DARE by Viader Cabernet Sauvignon by Viader and feels it’s going to be a beauty.
That’s the update from the vineyards and cellar at Viader. Please subscribe to our blog and consider contacting us to join our email list so we can keep you posted on our specials, offers and the progress at the winery.
Every summer our winery welcomes a special group of international students who are doing travel research for a Masters in Wine Management from the OIV (L’Organisation de la Vigne et du Vin). OIV is based in Montpelier, France and its academic program literally spans the globe and focuses on all aspects of the wine industry, including marketing, agriculture, tourism, business, vineyard management and winemaking. Following visits to all the major wine-producing regions of Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the students then travel to North America.
On a warm sunny morning this August, Janet Viader received a caravan of sixteen students who were just beginning their five- week-long visit in North America visiting wineries and wine establishments on both coasts and Canada. They had been at a handful of establishments in Sonoma and Napa Valley, including Benziger, Hanzell, Robert Mondavi Winery and would be continuing on to Opus One following their visit to VIADER. Starting the tour at the winery crush pad, Janet led the group in a lively discussion and answered a multitude of questions about VIADER’s winemaking style and history, Delia’s story and philosophy, and our family’s strategic plan for the continued success of our small multi-generational winery. Some of the students also come from wine-producing families. The questions were intelligent and direct, and the answers thorough and candid with an emphasis on the sea change in the wine business away from the traditional distribution model and towards more direct business thanks to monumental changes in direct shipping laws.
It’s another exciting week in the vineyard, as we move closer to harvest. We continue our legacy of organic farming, which involves many sustainable practices that help our fruit flourish. One specific vineyard practice includes a unique effort to naturally control any predatory pests in order to maintain a balanced ecological system on the property, which Alan takes great pride in. In this light, he incorporates some amazing strategies, one of which occurred this week: the release of these tiny wasps that control pests by “flying around and laying their eggs into the belly of the host,” says Alan.
These very tiny wasps target the small pest known as vine mealybug to safely and naturally prevent this pest from causing detriment to the vines.
Close to 10,000 of these little beneficiary wasps are released per season. The adult wasps generally live about 2-3 days flying around laying hundreds of eggs in their lifetime. They arrive in small vials and are dispersed by our crew in the vineyard. How do they find their prey? “They fly around and are attracted to the pheromones from the females,” Alan says.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach: IPM is a pest management strategy useful for any farming system especially for organic growers.
It’s just another week in the life of an organic winery, with Alan Viader at the helm. Please keep in touch with us to learn more about news at the vineyard and our various product releases and specials. Coming up to harvest is the busiest and most exciting time at our vineyard. We’d love to have you come for a visit and feel free to ask questions below.
Veraison Full Swing at Viader
We want to keep you posted on the progress in our vineyards this harvest season. We’ll post these talks intermittently up to the harvest to give an inside perspective on the evolution of the season.
“There are tons of things going on this week in the vineyard,” reports Alan Viader, our Winemaker. “Veraison is in full swing with the majority of the vineyard 50% or more along. Veraison is the onset of ripening, officially defined as the change of color of the grapes. Most importantly, it represents the transition from berry growth to berry ripening. It’s a crucial phase in the berry development.
Canopy management is also top of mind at this point in the harvest.
“I am busy checking vineyard canopies to ensure optimal sun exposure during this pivotal point in the season,” says Alan “I’m also monitoring our irrigation and water stress levels using our state of the art sap-flow sensors that measure actual (real-time) water use within the plant itself.” Sap-flow sensors help Alan measure actual water use by the grapevines so he can make reasonable estimates of vine water. It’s a key step in irrigation management.
As the week moves on, Alan also mentions that they’re “starting to mow the grasses and weeds in between the vine rows. It will be our last mowing before harvest,” he says. The purpose is to clean up the rows for the crew at harvest and to minimize competition from weeds for water at the end of the season. “It’s the time of year where I don’t want to have too much stress on the vines.” That’s the official update. Stay tuned for more and for a virtual walk through the property, please see this post with a photo gallery of Viader Vineyards.