September 22, 2010
Yesterday the beautiful sun was rising at 6:30 in the morning through the group of trees to the east of the vineyard. It was like red-orange velvet fire, promising only a softness so kind you couldn’t reprove it in any way. I silently welcomed its warmth that would eventually slather itself over me as we picked our Sauvignon Bland and Semillon for our wine we call Haven.
We have had 3 picks so far this 2010 vintage, the first: our Sauvignon Blanc from 4 year old vines, the second: our Pinot Blanc, and yesterday our third: Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon for Haven, a wine named after our soils here.
I celebrate this tiny moment in time because it is the first harvest here at Shinn Estate Vineyards under the guidelines of the National Organic Program. However, we have gone much further than just meeting these standards. The practices of the Oregon Live program, the Vine Balance New York program, the Demeter Association and our own methods of biologically intensive winegrowing have all comingled in the vineyard to produce our ripest and most balanced harvest to date. The Sauvignon Blanc has just begun ferment and tastes like bright ripe pears and grapefruit. Anthony Nappa, our winemaker, soaked the Pinot Blanc on the skins overnight letting the figgyness of the raisins into the wine. Right now, the field blend of Sauvignon Blanc Musque and Semillion is soaking for 3 days on its skins before Anthony will press it and transfer it to oak barrels.
As I trekked through the rows picking and lugging my lug of fruit through sometimes knee-high cover crop, I found the time to think back about my years converting this farm to a cleaner method of farming. Comments from fellow winegrowers like “you better be careful Barbara” and “organics is a croc” flowed through mind as I picked. Other choice phrases came to light containing words like “lunacy” and “occult”. I found myself laughing out loud at one point and my vineyard crew looked at me wondering what I was thinking.
The meadow that we grow under the vines is a splendid mat of grasses and broadleafs that provide pasture for the vines. As we mow under the trellis and around the trunks, the green manure left behind decays and is transformed by soil microorganisms into plant available nutrients. I look at my vines as if they were cows and sheep grazing in a meadow…..I grow free range wine!
I shouldn’t be so bold as to say I, because my whole vineyard crew has their specific tasks to perform with this way of farming: Jose loads and drains the compost tea and runs it through the irrigation. Guadalupe loads up the fish emulsion, Carlos spreads the compost and applies the fresh herbal teas and horn silica, and Israel builds the preliminary compost piles as he helps Anthony to press off the wines. They all scout the vineyard for problems everyday they are working.
Next harvest will be the beginning of the merlot, which will be early next week….about 3 weeks before normal merlot harvest. We have a 3 acre block at over 23 Brix and it is 80 degrees today. What a year.