It’s crunch time at Sonoma-Cutrer, and a buzz of anticipation is in the air as another harvest is well under way. Excitement and adrenaline take the place of sleep during this magical time as crews work around the clock to ensure grapes are picked at their peak.
Harvest kicked off this year with a pair of Sonoma-Cutrer family traditions. The season was christened with an ice cream social followed by a company wide breakfast the first morning eager crews took to the vineyards with their picking knives.
Spring’s dry, mild weather pushed harvest slightly early this year, while the moderate summer that followed blessed the vines with ideal ripening weather thanks to foggy mornings and warm afternoons.
Throughout harvest, grapes are analyzed daily for chemistry and flavor development. “Sugar meetings” are held every afternoon to determine which blocks of Sonoma-Cutrer’s six distinct vineyards will be picked the following day. The goal is to pick every block of grapes when the perfect balance of flavor, texture and sweetness is achieved.
Ensuring the finest possible fruit is a process that begins well before harvest. Vines are monitored and thinned throughout the year so the grapes that remain will bathe in the morning sun while being shielded from the harsh afternoon rays.
The choice clusters left on the vines at harvest time feature small uniform grapes with concentrated flavor. The fruit is harvested gently by hand in the middle of the night, when cooler temperatures ensure the highest possible flavor concentration.
After being sorted by hand and placed in shallow bins (so the grapes aren’t crushed), the fruit makes its way to Sonoma-Cutrer’s proprietary cooling tunnel, which helps preserve optimal acidity and flavor. Once they’re sorted by hand again, only the highest quality grapes are gently pressed and transferred to fine French oak barrels for fermentation.
The ultimate goal of this meticulous process is to produce wines with a sense of place that reflect the unique terroir of the Russian River Valley. With the help of Mother Nature and a tireless crew, this year’s vintage is expected to meet—and likely exceed—Sonoma-Cutrer’s lofty expectations.