Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hey, This is Easy

My first harvest was 2007.  Everything was beautiful, from the fruit to the pace of everything in production after the fruit came in.  Many of you know about the ’07 vintage.  It was, many would say, perfect.  I remember my brother calling me, asking “So how’s is going?” I answered back, “You know what, fine, this isn’t so hard.” But that was the last time I ever expressed anything like that when it came to harvest.  Why?  Because everything that followed introduced its own little stew of stress.  Everything from the reduced yields in ’08 through ’10 and 2011 of course, then the problem of having too much in ’12 and ’13.  Harvest is never really predictable.  Each one is different.  

Mother Nature will always remind you she’s in charge.  She offers her own set of challenges on top of what happens after you have the fruit on the crush pad.  I’ve learned that you keep learning, whether you’re a winery owner, or winemaker, or in the tasting room.  The lifelong learning aspect to this business and this life is real.  With each new harvest there’s not just a new lesson and new slew of experiences, but more growth for us all.  I’m still pleasantly surprised by what I see and experience each harvest, and more in love with this life that I’ve been a part of the last 10 years.  I didn’t anticipate this maybe as much as I should have, but the challenge and the education is incredible, especially to someone like me from Wisconsin who for years dreamt about this.

It’s challenging, harvest.  I realize that now.  Peaks and valleys, different stages… everything from bud break to bloom.  Over the past nine harvests and approaching my tenth, I see the vineyard and each vintage as the puzzle that we all put together and the ripples we all feel.  A lot of people don’t think about that.  What happens in a vintage affects everyone from the vineyard team, then the winemaking team, then the sales teams who have to sell through the vintage.  If there’s a big vintage that blesses us with amazing clusters and overall yield, that’s great for the winemaking team, but for the tasting room and other departments creates quite the challenge with having so much to sell so we can release the next vintage.  It’s all connected, everything at the winery, and it all stems from the vintage’s conditions.

Kerry reminds me that in the last ten years he’s experienced more weather variation and general challenges in the vineyards and winemaking than he has in his 40-year career.  Whatever you take away from that, you should appreciate that vintage is unpredictable, that Mother Nature is in control.  And when you have sales goals to meet and inventory to move through, it can get a little stressful.  The stress I’m talking about, I didn’t feel even a twinge of in ’07.  Oh but I learned over then next the next eight vintages (2008-2015), many times having too little and then in ’12 and ’13 having 40% over capacity.  Harvest is never the same.  No vintage is like another.  It’s stressful, it’s unpredictable, but we always rally and pull together.  We come out successful and satisfied in the end, and I love it.

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