Hello from Concannon Vineyard! The harvesting of our Cabernet Sauvignon has just marked the end of our 2016 harvest ― and the beginning of celebrating 133 consecutive vintages! We’ve picked some of the most beautiful fruit that I’ve seen in years, so we all have much to look forward to from the new wines being born into the 2016 vintage.
Then and now ― from 1883 to 2016, harvest is the most exciting time in the vineyard for me, my family and everyone here at the winery. I hope that each of you will make plans to visit and experience the exhilaration of this time ― the vines are their most beautiful when heavy with colorful fruit, and the air is sweet with the intoxicating aromas of recently-picked fruit being sorted and crushed. As the juice begins to ferment and age, an incredible alchemy begins transforming the grapes into wines. It’s an extraordinary process that can be explained in great depth. However, part of it is unexplainable ― it’s the transcendent quality of wine that poets, philosophers and wine lovers the world over have tried to describe for over a thousand years ― it’s the magic that unfolds from vineyard to glass.
(2016 Concannon Harvest at sunrise. Center: Ellen Rowe Concannon Victorian.)
Night harvest is part of what makes this magic take place. For over 130 years, we have picked our grapes throughout the night. As you can imagine, it’s incredibly beautiful working under moon and stars. Everyone loves the cooler conditions, including the grapes! Night harvest brings in grapes with better sugar levels, acid and aromatics ― all very important to the quality of our wines. The chilly night and early morning air also keep the grapes cooler which ensures that fermentation doesn’t begin before the grapes reach the winery. Everyone works very quickly because picking at precisely the right moment of ripeness always results in better wine.
Through the photos below, let’s journey through a night of harvesting from start to finish.
While it’s still light enough to see, our crew drives in and gets ready. Many of us have been working side-by-side for years and even decades, so at first, there’s a lot of happy chatter, catching up and excitement in the air. Then, as the work of the night begins, there is tremendous focus and determination. Pruning knives and lugs, the containers used to haul grapes from the field, are positioned. As the sun goes down, the lights go up ― we light up the work area with large lights to keep everyone safe and to help in selecting only the best bunches of grapes from the vines for our wines.
As the temperatures drop, everyone bundles up in the cool air. There is no short cut to this job. Just as it was in the 1880s, in 2016 it takes very skilled and hard work from many phenomenal people working together to achieve the best, most flavorful and well-balanced wines.
At sunrise, any remaining grapes are taken to the crush pad for immediate sorting by hand or for optical sorting. It takes enormous care and passion to get this job done and done right.
Picked early at 3 a.m., these gorgeous grapes on the left were gently hand-sorted at sunrise. Leaves, stems and imperfect grapes are removed as only the best fruit is used.
On the right, these grapes were chillin’ in our 52-degree barrel room before going to the crush pad. Delicious aromas of bright red and dark, lush fruit fill this room ― and soon will be vibrantly expressed within each sip of wine.
From vineyard to glass, and from our table to yours, cheers to the journey!
Fourth Generation Winemaker