The most important, and by far the busiest, time for a vintner is harvest.
It’s the pinnacle of a year’s work and the rewarding moment when one carefully picks the grapes and brings in the harvest. The intensity and excitement are at their highest. Every decision has a major impact on quality. There’s no room for error. Paying close attention to every detail is crucial and, after countless 12- to 16-hour workdays, it takes everything of you to ensure that another great vintage gets safely into the tanks and barrels.
Trying to be totally in control, of course, has no effect on what Mother Nature has in store. So one gets addicted to The Weather Channel and hopes for that beautiful Indian summer. The key is to stay positive; negative thinking is almost 100 percent effective! We all take risks —no risk, no fun — but with a little bit of luck, one can bring in the best and greatest wines right at the end.
The vineyard managers and winemakers use certain tools. The 10-day weather forecast, measuring the sugar of the grapes, pH, total acidity, average berry weight, feel of the grapes and, foremost, the taste. Most important is to have a good gut feeling and then follow it rigorously. As Steve Jobs used to say and practice: “the mind bending reality.”
With beer, you can buy more water, malt and hops. But with wine, you get only one chance per year. So it’s all on the line and, with the quality bar set higher than ever before, the pressure to perform is great.
Luckily, we have the best job in the world and passionately love what we do. The busier and harder it gets, the more we thrive and dig into it, chasing the holy grail of making that perfect wine.
Visit our wineries to feel the buzz in the air, smell the fermentation aromas and even volunteer to help with the picking. You don’t have to fly to France or California to enjoy the harvest! Starting next spring you — our customers, friends and wine critics — will be the judges who decide if it was average, great or even the vintage of the century!
President, Long Island Wine Council
Wolffer Estate Vineyard partner and winemaker
This letter was originally published in the fall 2016 edition of northforker’s Long Island Wine Press