The Path of Block 10
Posted by Anisya Fritz, Proprietor
At 4:00 am this Thursday, long before the light, I joined Jason our vineyard manager and our picking crew at Block 10, the most extreme east facing block on Quail Hill Estate vineyards, to witness the harvest of clones 667 and Swan (Pinot Noir). Planted in 1996, this relatively large block has 6326 vines on 101-14 rootstock. In keeping with our meticulous attention to detail and in the spirit of block by block farming, we harvest the different clones from this block separately, ferment them separately and barrel them separately. We picked the 777 Clone Wednesday.
Kenny was on the tractor, pulling the flat bed loaded with bins. On either end of the bed, were young women peering into the bins as workers lifted their loaded baskets and dropped the grapes in. The light from their headlamps shone on the fruit and the picked away stray leaves or raisined clusters. Kenny logged each basket as it was brought to the bins. The headlights streaked up and down the rows as the crews worked quickly, handpicking each vine, cluster by cluster, calling out to each other. To get a sense of how this works, consider that, the day before, we harvested 122,571 clusters with each member of our team averaging ~10,214 clusters, or 2,250 pounds.
How is THAT for a days work?
As the bins were filled, they were driven past the Bliss House and the tasting room, and dropped at the base of the winery. From there, Shane our winemaker, or Pete, our assistant winemaker picked them up by forklift and took them up the hill to the crush pad. Each bin was carefully lifted and the grapes were gently moved on to the sorting table. In the soft light of the early morning, the grapes were hand sorted, inspected again for any blemish that might impact the taste of the wine. From there the journey continued into the de-stemmer, and then into the fermentation tank. Each day, perhaps twice a day, our winery crew will check in on this, the fruit of the Block 10 vines, and gently punch down on them, otherwise leaving them to transform their sugar into alcohol. Eventually they will be moved into mostly brand new French Oak barrels and allowed to continue their development to the intense dark cherry nose, spice notes on the palate and a lovely lingering finish.