The 2012 Stolpman harvest kicked off Friday morning, September 7th
around 2AM and picking lasted through dawn. The fifteen members of La
Cuadrilla picked a total of 12 tons of fruit!
Kari and I caught up to the crew in Block 4 on Saturday morning about
5AM, for what turned out to be a perfect showcase for just how awesome
our crew really is.
Because the Viognier is pressed immediately while still cold, we use
the more efficient picking system of dropping fruit into buckets and
tossing bucket loads into 1,000 pound macro-bins to stack directly on
our truck and into the winery. Ruben left an extra fruiting cane
above the spur pruned wire this year which resulted in more clusters,
but smaller, with tiny grapes packed with flavor. More, miniature
clusters, some hidden away by the canopy made picking even more
intricate this year.
Cuadrilla flexed their skill, working like a well oiled machine,
removing the bird nets and pulling off extra leaves in advance of the
core picking team, and guiding tractors in and out as the trailers
were filled. As buckets were dumped, any errant leaves were sorted
out of the bins.
Like clock work, the 10th macro bin was filled as the Eastern Sky
showed signs of light. Straps were thrown over the load, and off the
flatbed roared, with Lupe at the wheel, to get the Viognier into tank
before breakfast time!
We all enjoyed a coffee and pastry break to allow the sun to rise a
bit more, granting us daylight for the most delicate task yet. It was
time for a very special Sangiovese harvest: Sashi and Peter Paston
have been working on a Solera style VinSanto for four harvests now,
and it won’t be released until 8 vintages have been blended together.
The goal is to pick only the perfect, tiny, early ripening Sangiovese
clusters directly into stacking baskets where they will dry and
raisinate for days, concentrating the sugars and adding a ripasso
In pairs, one member held the basket while the other inspects each
small cluster, passing on any with green grapes. I joked with Peter
Paston that the guys looked like waiters carrying trays at his
restaurant, Obelisk, in Washington DC.
The careful cluster selection for the Vinsanto project served as an
ideal warmup for the upcoming Syrah harvest. We’ll only want the
perfect fruit for Ruben’s block, which is quickly approaching ideal
ripeness. Following Ruben’s Block, we’ll start picking only the
ripest clusters from our High Density blocks. Harvest is just getting
off, and when I asked the guys if they were tired at the end of the
day, they shrugged it off “solo Poquito” only a little!