Larkmead Vineyards Harvest 2008


Larkmead Vineyards Harvest 2008

Harvesting Hot
On August 15 Larkmead Vineyards commenced its 125th harvest.  And it was not the only three digits we reached on this day.  Temperatures topped 105 degrees on the Vineyard. Some say that good things come in threes – this year at Larkmead, most major wine activity took place on days that temperatures eclipsed 100 degrees.  On May 15 and 16 when bottling 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and 2006 Firebelle, temperatures reached 102 degrees both days.  On July 8, while bottling 2006 Cabernet, temp topped 108 causing us to postpone the next two days of bottling.  And with the start of Harvest 2008, as noted above, another scorcher.  There are other ‘F' words I could use to describe this penchant for pyromania.  Far. From. Frigid.  (And you thought….)  Anticipating the heat this harvest day, we began picking just before 6 a.m. when temperatures hadn't yet reached 60 degrees.  This is not only good for the workers, but also the fruit that is hydrated from a chilly night and early morning fog.

Chasing Harvest

Each year in , harvest brings a buzz of activity in the vineyard and wineries can be found working around the clock.  Since harvest is our most intense time, where days bleed into nights and weekdays into weekends for months on end, we need extra help in the cellar to start the winemaking process.  Coupled with the migrant farm workers manning the vines, you'll see a number of International interns stomping around the cellar and singing the praises of winemaking in many different languages.  This year at Larkmead we have the help of two young winemaking-wannabes.  One joins us from South Africa (right) where he is Assistant Cellarmaster for Jordan winery and the other from the East Coast who recently worked harvest 2007 at a winery in Virginia.


All grape juice is clear (or a translucent color of sort).  Red wine gets its color from the juice's contact with its skin during the extended extraction of fermentation.  White wine gets pressed off the skins immediately to allow the juice to ferment on its own.  For our Sauvignon Blanc we used a two-hour press cycle that gradually builds pressure to squeeze flavor from the grape.  When the grape juice drops into the press pan its immediate contact with air (i.e. oxygen) causes a browning effect.  Not much different from leaving a cut up apple on a cheese plate for too long.  This is where that demon sulfur comes into play.  Sulfur binds with dissolved oxygen in grape (or fruit) juice and basically eliminates it.  We'll sulfur the juice to kick-start the clarifying process and then let fermentation take over the rest.


Over the past couple of years, we've tried different vinification methods to gain complexity in our Sauvignon Blanc.  Traditionally you'll ferment Sauvignon Blanc in Stainless Steel tanks. We've employed this method along with fermenting in barrel to allow the juice closer contact with its lees (the rich, textured, paint like substance that settles out of a wine during fermentation).  This year with our Sauvignon Blanc we are using a small percentage of New French Oak (10%) and Stainless Steel barrels (15%) along with the remainder in older, ‘neutral,' French barrels.  Each vessel will have an impact on the flavors and texture of the wine.  When blended the wine will offer a more diverse set of characteristics than your standard, steely, racy Sauvignon Blanc.  Our goal is to create a wine with aromatic intensity (fruit) on the front end while maintaining a similar preponderance in the mouth (oak) and freshness (steel) on the finish.

Larkmead Vineyards in Napa Valley. Dan has an MBA from New York University and worked as an Ad Exec in New York for several years, before switching it up and trading his suit for a move out west.

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  • Snooth User: oceank8
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
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    Great pics and write up. I know how difficult it must be to harvest in such high temperatures, but my question is, how does it affect the grapes? You mention hydration, but what does this entail besides just amount of juice?

    Aug 27, 2008 at 9:03 AM

  • Snooth User: Mark Angelillo
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
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    I really like that last photo. Looking forward to sampling.

    Aug 28, 2008 at 5:15 AM

  • Snooth User: oceank8
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    55708 2,030

    I like the last one too, but I think the first is my favorite. @Dan are you a photographer or just enjoy it?

    Aug 28, 2008 at 6:54 AM

  • Snooth User: Philip James
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    1 12,575

    Ocen - not sure how Dan will answer that question, but I've seen a few of his pictures, and I'd certainly put him in the category of photographer…

    Aug 29, 2008 at 3:17 AM

  • Snooth User: John Andrews
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    36106 3,448

    @Dan … harvest is finally rolled around for us too. I'm going to be off for a week but when I get back I'm jumping right in (on weekends).

    Sep 03, 2008 at 7:32 AM

  • Snooth User: Daniel Petroski
    Hand of Snooth
    30091 715

    Sorry, All. Thanks for the comments. Been a bit busy, these last few weeks. But have a break as the evening pumpovers are underway.

    @ Mark, 2008 Sauvignon Blanc will be as good as the past. We're excited about it and it is almost ‘dry' (i.e. a young wine that turned all sugar into alcohol). If you are out this way pre-bottling in May, you'll have to settle for a barrel sample.

    Oceank8, the heat is a problem. And I think I addressed that question in my follow up blog post when I touched on sugars that shoot out the roof. The other problem when the vines aren't receiving proper hydration (even via irrigating) is that they'll produce sugar but not synthesize acid which also causes unbalances in the wine. We're seeing malic acid levels that are beyond anything we've ever seen. My old vine Tocai post pressing tasted like apple juice, like flat out, freshly squeezed McIntosh apple juice. Could make a good wine, but I won't know for a couple of weeks.

    As for the photography, I like to take pictures. However, I need a new camera, my Elph has been around the world and back one two many times. But, thank you.

    HondaJ, looking forward to your European update! Hope you had a good trip. And I have been to a few Italian weddings. I know you'll have had a good trip!

    Sep 13, 2008 at 7:25 AM

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