Possible thunderstorms on the way and we can tick off one of this years' lots -- the Merlot is in, safe and sound. Some of our grape customers have decided to wait a bit more and that's no surprise. Our section of Merlot is on top of a little hill, the "Coombsville Divide" which stands between the Tulocay Creek and Sarco Creek watersheds. The soil here is thin and very chalky so these vines wrap up their growing season a little before the rest of the block.
We read a lot about the ceremony in various wineries of the "blessing of the grapes" around these parts, a tradition that was a staple of the Christian Brothers winery way back when. I honestly don't even know if it's a brand anymore but Hess and Trinchero have some of their old properties in Napa. My brother and I have had many laughs imitating the old Chateau LaSalle commercials of yore ("Tastes like grapes, WHITE grapes"). Brother Timothy was of that age, a legendary producer in the Napa Valley and somewhat of an icon. Another icon, Robert Mondavi, also had a regular ceremony each year for this auspicious event as the first grapes hit the hopper.
From the production standpoint, this ceremony is a little inconvenient to the actual harvest staff as everything grinds to a halt to assemble all the people and snap some photos. Also, there's usually a little toasting and drinking of wine that doesn't really go with machinery, so I have always tried to sidestep this tradition. Instead, thanking the vineyard crew and, maybe a vine or two, has been the tradition. There is certainly a cosmic thread thought the process and formal religion is indeed appropriate, but once the grapes are ready to crush, most winemakers know that the sooner you start, the sooner you go home. That's important because there are no guarantees that everything will go smoothly. I've had days (nights, really), where I was heading home when the vineyard manager was just waking up for an early pick. Not today, though. Time to spread out the stems with a dramatic cloud show and beautiful, delicious fruit in the tank.
On y va! Here we go!!!