Between the Vines is a biweekly column on wine and wine making in the Livermore Valley region. Information for this column was contributed by Darcie Kent of Darcie Kent Vineyards.
What's happening in Livermore Valley vineyards this month?
It's harvest time! This is what we work for all year long. White varieties are the first to come in, and they are already being harvested. Heavier varietals like cabernet sauvignon will hang on the vines for at least a month more.
When to pick the grapes is always one of the toughest decisions we make. There are so many variables at play, such as the weather, the balance of sugar and acid within a grape cluster and monitoring the color of the seeds to ensure full ripeness. Ultimately, we taste a lot of fruit as we walk the vineyard rows each morning and when the flavors are right, we know it is time to harvest.
Our estate-grown grapes are picked by hand and at night under portable lights when the grapes are cold. We have found that this is the best way to preserve those flavors all the way into the winery. On a good night we can pick 20 tons of fruit. Twenty tons will translate into about 15,000 bottles of finished wine.
Livermore Valley is blessed with warm days and cool nights with 40-degree temperature swings from day to night. This is ideal for producing wines with great acidity, color and complexity.
Ultra-premium quality grapes need the warm days to develop sugar and the cool nights to preserve the natural acidity of the fruit. In areas where it is too hot, the grapes develop sugar and lose acid too fast and the fruit must be harvested before the flavors properly develop. The Livermore Valley may reach impressively high temperatures for a few hours on a typical summer day, but the air cools so rapidly due to our proximity to the San Francisco Bay that the grapes have plenty of time to properly develop color and flavor before they are picked. This year, Napa is almost done picking chardonnay, and we haven't even started yet.
We source exclusively from our own estate vineyards and from local, family-owned vineyards in Livermore Valley, most of which we've had a relationship with for more than 15 years. In our estate vineyards we grow sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, zinfandel, petit sirah, merlot, malbec, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon.
Most of our local growers are on the east side of the Livermore Valley as the elevations rise toward the Altamont Pass. We are working with the Picazo, Burkhart, Tarantino, Wanless, Ghielmetti, Sandhu and Hoffman families this year. The DeMayo chardonnay from the Hoffman Vineyard will be the first to harvest this year around the middle of the month.
To taste the wines of Darcie Kent Vineyards, please visit our new winery at 7000 Tesla Road in Livermore or find us online at www.darciekentvineyards.com
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