It’s that time of year again! The 2017 Harvest season has come to Temecula Valley Wine Country. The grapes have ripened and now the wine making magic truly begins. Head winemaker, Damian Doffo shares what’s new this year and how Doffo Winery is taking the next step in making the perfect bottle of wine.
We are very excited for this upcoming Harvest as the previous two years produced a less than favorable yield due to poor weather conditions. While the quality of fruit was very good, there just wasn’t enough of it. This year however, the farming gods smiled down on us and the early estimates look very promising! On the production side of things, we are excited to share that we are taking some serious steps to further improve our attention to detail by adding two more sorting tables to the processing line. This will allow us to discard any unripe or undesired clusters before they get destemmed. We are also adding another sorting table post destemmer that will discard any bits of stem that may have made it through to this point. The fruit then lands on a third sorting table which allows the shot berries to fall through, ensuring that only ripe fruit makes it into the fermentation bins. For those of you that aren’t aware, shot berries refers to the small unripe fruit named for its resemblance to a shotgun shot! We feel that the investment in these machines further separates us from the other wineries in the area and shows our commitment to producing the most exceptional wines in our valley.
I often get asked how do I know when the grapes are ready and there are several factors in deciding when to harvest a vineyard block. The three most common numbers winemakers look for are: PH, Total Acidity and of course, Brix, which is measurements of sugar. As we get closer to full ripeness we routinely go into the vineyards and pull samples to run labs on the juice. More important than any test however, is taste. As a grower and winemaker, it is imperative that I taste the fruit and check for physiological ripeness as well. The color of the seeds inside the grape are just as important as the PH, Total Acidity and Brix numbers. Often, we are waiting for the perfect storm where the seed ripeness and lab numbers are both in acceptable ranges. However, the biggest advantage I have comes from being so involved in farming and the historical knowledge of knowing which block tends to ripen before others. Being able to anticipate this is vital when it’s time to orchestrate the activity on the crushpad.
The question isn’t how early to do we get up to pick, it’s how late! Normally harvesting is done in the middle of the night for a few reasons. The first and most important reason is the temperature. The fruit is picked at night to allow the grapes to cool off from the afternoon heat. During the harvest, it is inevitable that a certain percentage of the grapes will burst leaving some juice at the bottom of the bins. If the grapes are harvested during the day, there is a very likely chance that the little bit of juice can start fermenting on the wild yeast found naturally in the vineyards. As a winemaker, I want to control when and what yeast the grapes ferment with. Temperature is also a big factor when it comes down to color extraction and aromatic freshness. The other major reason for harvesting at night is the ambient temperature for the crew. Harvesting grapes is a grueling job and the crews are more efficient in cooler temperatures. For me, harvest nights usually mean we come out of the vineyards anywhere between 3-5am. The crushpad crew normally arrives at 8am, leaving me anywhere from 2-5 hours of sleep. It’s definitely a labor of love!
Doffo Barrel Club
If you’re looking to experience this process yourself, then the Barrel Club is a great opportunity for any wine enthusiast that wants to take the next step. We created the Doffo Barrel Club so you could experience all the fun parts of winemaking without all of the tedious tasks in between. This exclusive experience allows members to partake in a harvest including a chance to operate all the crushpad equipment and of course the famous grape stomp! We take the opportunity to explain in depth, the process of fermentation and give our members a chance to have all of their winemaking questions answered. This year we are very excited as we have selected a choice vineyard block of Malbec for the 2017 Barrel Club members. We chose this prime block of Malbec based on when we anticipate the block to be fully ripenened and provide the highest quality fruit for the members to produce their wine with. It’s going to be a great time!