Harvest 2021 Update
One of the less discussed and less romanticized aspects of crafting distinctive wine is harvest logistics. Logistics is a term generally relegated to the manufacturing sector and supply chain when figuring out to how to move products most efficiently and effectively from point A to point B. And for wineries, once all the fluff and romance are removed, we are not much more than a fairly messy manufacturer.
I have often stated that there are no secrets to making good wine, it just comes down to basic execution, and managing harvest logistics is core to crafting delicious St.Amant wines. Harvest logistics is a million micro-decisions and actions over the course of several months that result in consistently good wines. And if you are producing more than a few barrels of wine, it requires a team of talented hard-working individuals that work in harmony to get the job done. And finding your harvest rhythm is key to making the logistics all work.
And when you’re dealing with Mother Nature, and people, the best laid plans can all go to hell. And they frequently do! This year was no different. Extended heat throughout August and September led to many of our varieties ripening simultaneously. We literally picked Alicante Bouschet and Cabernet Sauvignon a month earlier than 2020. The net result is that tank space for fermenting and pressing were at a premium. We essentially got plugged up with grapes. And this was compounded by the fact that our yields were up, which is a good thing after the dismal yields we saw last year.
I also tend to complicate things by splitting up varieties and vineyards into multiple small lots. The goal is to build complexity, experiment, and produce better more interesting wines, but the logistics become increasingly complex as we strive to keep the lots separate. “Normally” harvest reaches a crescendo around the first week of October. This is the point where you are picking, crushing, pressing, and barreling down wines simultaneously while worrying about potential storms. This year we peaked around Labor Day, and it never really slowed down.
Furthermore, labor and trucking challenges made this year’s logistics even more challenging. We did buy a new flatbed truck to help with the smaller picks but ended up hauling most of our grapes back to the winery. Nathan became quite the proficient truck driver. When all was said and done, we ended up crushing 207 tons spread out over 43 distinct lots and 12 different varieties. And through yesterday, we’ve filled 418 barrels with 2021 wines.
Of course, the ultimate question, did all the organized chaos of harvest produce good wines. The simple answer is yes. Although there is still a long way to go, my hunch is that there will be a few exceptional wines from this vintage. Across the board, they all had higher levels of natural acidity and good concentration and depth of flavor. We saw very little disease or pest pressure, and most of the grapes arriving at the winery looked beautiful. As always, we strive to make the best wine year in and year out, and focused execution on harvest logistics allows us to do more and make better wines with each vintage.