This morning's sunrise was distinct. As I peered out the kitchen window watching my partner make his way through the long row of vines, a fog bank settled over the tops of the grapes, creating a surreal scene. I could see his white cap bobbing up 'n down among the rows, taking samples of the bunches, fog giving him an eerie, mystical quality as he disappeared from sight. Grabbing my camera to capture the view, I dashed outside and noticed the change in the air--the smell and feel, it's harvest time.
There's a smell when a field is ready to be harvested. The air is crisp in the early morning, often laden with moisture, the berries glisten as the sun rises over the field, and the earth smells sweet 'n ripe, heavy. The grapes are beautiful this year--big, full, pleasantly shaped, no sunburn, no blotches, none are misshapen--each one nearly perfect.
As the sun peaks over the hills, warming the air, the fog lifts and the white hat returns with a bag of randomly selected berries. His clothes are sticky from the samples grapes that he's picked and with a smile he says, "They're ready." And now, the real work begins.
In Lodi, Chardonnay grapes are the queen of whites. The variety is California's most widely planted wine grape, with an estimated 93,000 acres reported in 2017. For our Serendipity Blanc de Blanc, Chardonnay is the key to this exceptional sparkling wine. During the last several weeks, we've made the rounds through the vineyard, randomly sampling the grapes and checking for the ideal level of acidity and sugar ripeness. Sparkling wine grapes must be picked earlier as they need a higher level of acidity and less sugar, so this morning at the perfect 18 Brix, we're ready to go.
Tonight at midnight, we'll begin the picking process--removing those beautiful bunches of grapes and transporting them to the winery where the grapes will be pressed, not crushed, to limit the contact between skin and juice. A pneumatic press, which has a large, plastic balloon will gradually inflate and gently break the grape skins. Juice will slowly drain into a pan beneath the press. The press turns, inflates again and again, ultimately leaving a pile of skins and seeds. This Chardonnay juice will retain the pure, Chardonnay characteristics, allowing our winemakers to create an exceptional wine--a wine befitting the name, Serendipity. Yes, tonight's going to be exciting!