August has arrived with its usual heat, perfect for the beginning of Napa’s harvest season. The big surprise is the ongoing humidity. On the 20th of July we had a sprinkling of showers. Nothing big, but still. Rain in July? And then yesterday, more rain. Nothing pelting or drenching, but still. Rain in August? And during the weeks in between, the clouds hang low, the air is still and it’s more like muggy New England than breezy northern California. Very, very odd.
The vineyard is still in vigorous work-mode; within our Merlot rows, veraison is almost complete and we’ve dropped fruit yet again. The process of cutting tough vine with small scissors is tedious and time-consuming, but it’s a big part of our noticeably rich Merlot. As the grapes mature and turn color, we go through the rows, dropping fruit several times. This time, we’re removing green fruited wings and shoulders off the clusters. The process is called green drop – it ensures all the grapes we end up harvesting are uniformly mature, and bursting with flavor. Details like that cost us both crop and labor, but when quality is defined by great taste, it’s required.
This year’s new barrels have arrived, representing a substantial chunk of change; they’ll be numbered and mildewcided, then filled with hot water to ensure they’ll hold new wine without leaks. One of this year’s interns has also arrived – Zak Louw, from his family’s farm, Opstal, near Worcester in South Africa; he’ll be with us through December. Anthony and Zak’s father, Stanley, went to undergrad together in Stellenbosch. Seven generations of the Louw family have been on Opstal since the early 1700’s, where they harvest over 200 acres of grapes yearly. At 22, this is Zak’s first trip to another grape growing area and he’s eager to learn how and why we do things. This week, he and Anthony have been checking the fruit in all of our vineyards – looks like we’re no more than two weeks away from harvest.
And speaking of harvest, our harvest STOMP party is right around the corner. Plan on coming by BELL on October 4th for some great Syrah and a free pedicure as you fandango among the fruit. Cheers, from all of us at Bell Wine Cellars.