Harvest 2012 Round 2

Picpoul Blanc and Roussanne


The Winery readies itself for Picpoul Blanc


In the Vineyard

Our crews began early this morning, picking Roussanne and Picpoul Blanc.  Space between the start of harvest 2 weeks ago with Sauvignon Blanc and today’s pick is striking but not unusual.  It is typical of Rhone whites and most reds to take a bit longer to ripen than the ever over-achieving (or over-eager, depending on how you see things) Sauvignon Blanc.


Crews harvesting in the fog


We were surprised upon arrival to find that the vineyard was entirely blanketed in fog.  Though it is common for this physical representative of coastal influence to creep in overnight in the surrounding area, it is fairly unusual (occurring perhaps less than once a month) for there to be fog on Halter Ranch itself simply given the geography of the  small valley in which our vineyard lies.  Few smells are quite as captivating as the multitude of scents woken by the presence of hanging moisture in the vineyard.  Subtle whiffs of wet stone, fine dust, and general abundance permeated the atmosphere and lent additional enthusiasm to an already exciting day. 


Roussanne not long for the vine

Picking and Pressing Picpoul Blanc

Our crews sped through Block 34B Picpoul Blanc, pulling in all 3 tons of fruit within the first hour.  It may seem a bit early to be harvesting this particular variety as it tends to be a later ripening white.  All we may say at the moment is that the choice to pick it early is part of a special project we will be embarking upon over the next 3 years.  Expect additional detail on this later and apologies for our cruelly vague mention of such secret dealings.  The grapes spent the first 40 minutes in cold storage before being transported to the unfortunately but accurately named bladder press for their miraculous transformation from whole berries to juice.


Ready for the press


The large balloon (or bladder) within the cylinder of the press inflates at increments, stopping between each set degree of inflation for the cylinder to spin.  These incremental spin cycles allow freshly pressed juice to flow out through the small valve toward the left end of the press.  By carefully monitoring the length of time the juice is in contact with the grape skins and seeds (each moment counts) we are able to separate the more refined (less tannic as a result of less skin contact) free run juice, from the more tannic press run juice.  Once the press has proceeded through its first sequence of inflation, we reroute the remaining (press fraction) juice to a separate fermentation vessel.  It will be used for blending with other whites such as Viognier that tend to have lower acidity (Picpoul Blanc’s acidity is quite high, making it ideal for the special project we shouldn’t really be typing about).  How does our 2012 early harvest Picpoul taste upon pressing you wonder?  Like the best grape juice you’ve ever had with excellent complexity and some bracing tartness on the back end.


The press in action (this photo was taken during an inflation phase)


Bringing Roussanne Home

Blocks 39A and 39B Roussane are located at the outer edge of our primary Rhone White planting.  It typically appears as a major component in our Côtes de Paso Blanc, it works in concert with Viognier and Marsanne, lending gravity to the brighter more acidic fruit of Picpoul Blanc and Grenache Blanc.  Roussanne is associated most directly with the Rhone region of France, appearing in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and to a lesser degree (simply given miniscule size of the appellation) in Hermitage among other appellations.  Roussanne is known for having excellent age potential for a white when made well and though we have not yet produced a varietal bottling, it lends increasing depth to our Rhone Blends as the vines continue to mature.


Gathering round the Bladder Press


More harvest updates will appear here as the season begins to take off.  If you have any questions or comments about Roussanne, Picpoul Blanc, or any of the other content in this post we would love to read it and converse with you via the comments section.  Happy Harves 2012!

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