Harvest 2019 is officially in the books, just in time for our first substantial snowfall!
Because of the weather, harvest started a little late this year. Which can mean one of two things, it will last longer than normal, or it will be compressed into a smaller harvest window. This year the latter was the case. We started with Baco Noir on September 13th and Cabernet Sauvignon came in on Halloween.
This is my fifth harvest up on the Hill. Over the last two harvests, which were really large, we really stretched the capacity of the facility. With a smaller harvest this year, tonnage wise, we are able to try some new things that some years we don’t have time for. A good portion of these projects revolve around estate grown fruit.
For the first time since my arrival in 2015, we are going to make a barrel fermented, Ingle Vineyard Chardonnay. It will be in 50% new French oak and 50% 3-year-old America, French and Hungarian barrels as well. Part of the lot was on skins for 6 hours in the press to pull out more Chardonnay character from the skins.
My assistant Sam and I are also doing side by side yeast trials with two tanks of Ingle Vineyard Riesling. Will one win out over the other or will they be better blended? Stay tuned...
We are experimenting with the Keuka Lake Estate Riesling crop out in front of the winery and fermenting in flex tanks and neutral oaks.
So what is a flex tank? A flex tank allows one to control the amount of oak put in the wine. It also has the same porosity of a two-year-old barrel. This will be done to give a different structure and mouthfeel to our reserve wine.
Lastly, we will be making a Late Harvest Riesling this year from Ingle Vineyard fruit that was picked on Monday, November 11th. We try this as not to be at the mercy of mother nature but hopefully to make a product like the 2017 Late Harvest Vidal Blanc that many loved, that is now sold out.
Even though we didn't have to press any grapes in the wind driven snow like we did last year, we did end the year with a very long Saturday of pressing the grapes that were left so we could get it done before the first expected snowfall that hit the region this week. This would be a great time to take a few days off and catch up on some sleep, but we have 2018 wines to be bottled and 2019 wines to be made. There's no rest for the wicked when you're a winemaker.
Walking out of the vineyard with sticky fingers and a purple mouth, it's shaping up to be a fantastic 2019 vintage. We had setbacks early on with some rot from the rain in the Pinot Noir. We dropped almost a ton of grapes into buckets to be added to compost, then made some beautiful juice from the remainder. Shortly after, we picked what was left of Pinot Noiron September 30th. It was a smaller quantity but the numbers look great.
The other varieties are looking absolutely beautiful. A little over 10 tons of Chardonnay grapes were bright gold and came in at 21.7° brix at harvest on October 10th and 11th. We picked about 1.5 tons of Merlot on Saturday the 12th followed by Blaufrankisch on Monday and Tuesday. The Blaufrankisch grape bunches were a beautiful deep purple and the crop was of good size and great quality. We worked hard to pick them so we could get them off the vine before the expected rain.
We picked Cabernet Sauvignon Friday morning and we still have Cabernet Franc and Riesling hanging and those will be picked within the week. We plan to leave some rows of Riesling to hang on the vines a bit longer to make a late harvest this year, which is always a great addition to our lineup of Rieslings.
Thanksgiving at the Ingle home is a perfect opportunity to share the Ingle Vineyard lifestyle with family and friends. Being an avid gardener as well as a grape grower, Thanksgiving is all about homegrown. The festivities begin with Ingle Vineyard Chardonnay unoaked, our favorite wine! Crisp and refreshing with complex flavors of apple and lemon, it satisfies the palate. As we move into the dinner mode our thoughts turn to turkey and a versatile red such as the just released Ingle Vineyard Merlot Reserve 2013. A bright and juicy wine with medium body and a silky mouthfeel that will nicely complement the assorted organic homegrown delicacies such as sweet peas, mashed potatoes, whipped sweet potatoes (yes, all from our Finger Lakes garden) and stuffing made with our carrots, celery, herbs and raisins. Traditional and time-tested flavors. For dessert we look forward to our organic apple cider pie paired with a delicious Ingle Vineyard Icewine 2010. This is a luscious wine that has an intriguing aroma of glycerine followed by creamy sweet flavors of quince and pear – nice foil for the pie.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because it’s all about family, sharing, counting our blessings and enjoying our home. All recommended wines are available at our three tasting rooms and online at heronhill.com. Enjoy!
Heron Hill Winery, Heron Hill Tasting Room at Bristol, and Heron Hill Tasting Room on Seneca Lake are closed on Thanksgiving Day, however please join us for Small Business Saturday. Visit any one of our three locations on November 28th for storewide wine discounts and holiday cheer.
The harvest season plods along, day-to-day, vineyard-to-vineyard, weather report to report -- it’s hurry up then wait. This convoluted vintage of freezing winter, wet summer, hot September and now cooperative October weather has brought in some beautiful grapes. The scant harvest (1.2 tons) of Pinot Noir brought exciting brix (sugar) levels and great jammy flavors. The Chardonnay, again a scant quantity (8.5 tons) was declared "perfect" by winemaker Barry Tortolon. Now we are into the Riesling. Finally good quantities to go with exceptional quality. The 7.5 inches of rain we had in June helped to develop Botrytis (the "noble rot"). We hope this block of Riesling brings a very interesting dessert wine. Next will be Merlot, then Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, late harvest and icewine.
Winemaker Barry Tortolon inspecting Chardonnay from Ingle Vineyard; checking Brix in the early morning; clean & ripe Riesling from Keuka Lake.
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You keep me rocking all of the time.
Which is a good thing this time of year. After one of the busiest weeks of Crush thus far we got to celebrate with...an even busier week. The last of the Ingle Vineyard Riesling came in looking fine. We have left a few rows for a Dessert Wine, but the rest of the Riesling is now happily (for the most part) bubbling away in stainless and will continue to slowly eat-up sugar over the next 3 weeks or so. We also got heavily into Reds this week. First up, we pressed Merlot. Volumes will be down, and the ripeness level is not on par with 2007 or 2012, but we'll try to coax some decent tasty treats out of it. Cabernet Franc followed close behind, with decent tonnage, but somewhat low Brix levels, and a definite 'leaner' character than optimal. However, we've been pleasantly surprised by how well some of the Reds from 'less ripe' years have developed before and I don't see any reason to be less than optimistic about our chances this vintage. Last in, and the last delivery other than grapes destined for Late Harvest and Dessert Wines, was Cabernet Sauvignon. If you've grown fond of the bell pepper character in Cool Climate Cabs, you might have something to look forward to. There are also some nice red berry notes coming through in the unprocessed grapes, so fingers crossed. Tonnage was again down compared to other years, so make sure you stock up when Eclipse Red is released.
A very fine place...to pick some, fine estate-grown Riesling from the vineyards overlooking beautiful Keuka Lake.
This past week saw everything shift into Hi gear, with the Vineyard in front of the winery being picked. First up was a small crop from our oldest Block with some amazing, raw floral and fruit notes, and a little bit of minerality even at this early stage. There was a little bit of 'good' Botrytis cinerea in the mix, which should manifest itself in some apricot notes post-fermentation.
The next day we picked the rest of the Vineyard, which mainly consists of some younger Riesling vines. Crisp acidity. Lovely fruit flavours. And, as an added bonus, yields were higher than we anticipated. Don made the call early in the Winter to leave a few extra buds on the canes prior to pruning to compensate for the Polar Vortex that had already been gripping the Northeast and it paid off with a bit more fruit then expected. Bonus.
Saturday saw the arrival of the first of the Bordeauxs. We accepted delivery of some nice, handpicked Merlot which now rests comfortably in a tank and several bins for fermentation. We looked to be picking our own Cabs form Ingle Vineyard early next week as the jump to Lightspeed continues.
We were honored to host our Harvest Sweepstakes Winners this past week. Chad and Jen from Portland, Maine had the pleasure of helping pick and process the first lot of Ingle Vineyard Riesling this year, as well as enjoying lunch with John and a Library Tasting with Bernard later on. Congratulations, Chad and Jen!
We're well into it now, with Riesling coming in from 3 different lakes in the past few days, and looking very nice. We should be getting more Ingle Vineyard fruit in the coming days, although a glance at this week's weather forecast is not very promising. The vineyard at Heron Hill will likely be on hold until early next week, with the Reds coming in in short order afterward.
But I'm not sure I love you when you show up 3 hours late with the first load.
Today was already expected to be a pretty busy day, with 3 loads of Chardonnay from the eastside of Seneca Lake expected to arrive starting at 10am. Equipment issues at the Grower's end lead to a delay in arrival, with the 1st truck finally showing up at just after 1pm, so 3 hours later than planned. Oh well, these things happen during Crush, and you just have to roll with it.
We were pleasantly surprised to find out that we were receiving more grapes than we had requested, which will definitely help alleviate some future supply issues down the line. The Chardonnay graped came in at normal Brix levels for Cool Climate Chardonnay, although the berries were a bit smallish. We should see some good results from theses grapes next Summer when we begin to release 2014 white wines.
The delay allowed us time to catch up on a few other things around the Winery and in the vineyards, with some housekeeping, tank cleaning, mowing, paperwork and miscellaneous other duties all being done while we waited the arrival of the grapes, so the time was not wasted. On the slate for tomorrow -- pressing of the Ingle Vineyard Pinot Noir. Time to put that Baby to bed!
Well, it wasn't really mud. And I'm not sure that water is an apt descriptor either, but there was likely SOME water amongst all the other detritus I pulled out of the screens leading to the drains. Ah, the glamour and romance of harvest life!
Anyway, the Chardonnay from Ingle Vineyard started coming in today. A very acceptable 21.5 to 22 degres Brix with pH's in the 3.2-3.3 range, and some fabulous flavours and aromas -- lemon, melon, a bit of green apple and some grass. Should make a couple of excellent single vineyard wines, or possible a Reserve wine, in the coming months and years. Once again, tonnage is an issue. The vines on the west side of Canandaigua Lake didn't necessarily like last winter too much. Last year was also a bumper crop from these vines, and yields tend to be cyclical -- abundant one year, not as much the next. The weather conditions the previous year during the period when these vines were setting buds for this year also plays a part.
The last few days saw us moving a lot of juice off lees in the Cellar to prepare them for fermentation. We also spent quite a bit of time inoculating some juices that were ready to go and managing some fermentations that were already started. The Ingle Vineyard Pinot Noir is pretty much done fermenting and is undergoing a bit of a longer maceration to extract some extra flavour and aromas. Wonderful berry fruit and rose petals or aromas of violets are coming through on the nose. We will likely press it out early next week.
The 2013 harvest is over, after we picked the Riesling Icewine on the third week of November at Ingle Vineyard on a cool site overlooking the west side of Canandaigua Lake. Yes, it got that cold before Thanksgiving! The 2013 whites are either done with the alcoholic fermentation or finishing it slowly. A cool fermentation for white wines helps preserve the aromas from the varietal and also from the fermentation itself. A cool temperature means a long and slow fermentation.
(Scenes from harvesting Riesling for icewine)
The reds need a higher temperature during the alcoholic fermentation to help the extraction of tannins from the skin and seeds. The alcoholic fermentation is therefore much quicker, a matter of days to a week. The rest of the time spent on the skin is called post-fermentation maceration. The red wines have been pressed off the skin and are now going through the secondary fermentation, or Malo-lactic fermentation: malo-lactic bacteria transform the sharp malic acid (found in apples) into the softer lactic acid (found in yogurt). This makes the red wines softer and rounder. Our white wines do not go through Malo-lactic fermentation in order to preserve their natural acidity.
For me, Christmas is a family holiday, in contrast with the New Year celebration which is more of a “friends get-together.” It has been a tradition for my wife and I to spend Christmas Eve with her cousins on Long Island for the “Feast of the Seven Fishes.” You might have guessed it: they are on the Italian side of the Family. As the name suggests, all the dishes are seafood based: shrimp cocktail, baked clams, broiled lobster tails, clams in a white wine sauce over pasta…and lots of desserts!
(Heron Hill Vidal Blanc 2011: Gold medal Finger Lakes International Wine Comp.; 90 points Wine & Spirits)
Interestingly enough, we bring the wines: Heron Hill Muscat is a favorite, along with the Semi-Dry Riesling and Ingle Vineyard Riesling. For the red wine drinkers, Heron Hill Cabernet Franc is always a hit, and I might add our Blaufränkisch or Baco Noir Reserve this year along with Eclipse Red 2010. And for dessert, I better not forget Heron Hill Late Harvest! It is a very versatile wine and pairs with many different desserts, as long as the dessert is not overly sweet. An interesting dessert to pair the Heron Hill Late Harvest Vidal Blanc with is a Ricotta cheese filled crêpe flambée. I believe I have shared a flambée Shrimp recipe in the past: you are going to think I am a pyromaniac…well, it surely makes a good show!
Crêpes Flambées with Ricotta cheese filling
¾ cup flour
1 cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
¼ tsp Vanilla extract
400g Ricotta cheese
4-5 Tbsp confectionated sugar
1 ½ tsp lemon zest
1/3 cup orange juice
¼ tsp Vanilla extract
1/3 cup of either whiskey, dark Rum, aged Brandy, Cointreau,
or Grand Marnier (for a “Crêpe Suzette” approach).
First, blend all the ingredients for the crêpe batter together, then store in the refrigerator for about three hours. This gives you plenty of time to make the filling, which should be made before cooking the crêpes. Just blend all the ingredients together. I chose Ricotta cheese for its creaminess and its lighter taste. To get closer to a Crêpe Suzette, you would replace the Ricotta cheese with half a stick of butter and use orange zest instead of lemon. I like the combination here because I do not want a dominant lemon or orange flavor, but a diversity of aromas. A good substitute for sugar would be honey, and it would actually work even better with the wine!
Using a flat bottom non-stick frying pan (the best is of course the “crêpe-pan), oil well the bottom of the pan. Once the pan is hot, pour a small ladle of batter and swirl the pan so the batter makes a thin and even layer on the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 45 seconds to a min, then flip the crêpe and cook for another 45 seconds, until brown bubbles appear. Place the crêpe on a dish. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
Place about 1-2 Tbsp of the filling in the center of each crêpe. Fold it in half, then in half again to make it look like a wedge or a quarter of a circle.
Place the crêpes in a big heat resistant pan. In a small saucepan warm up the liquor of your choice, then pour over the crêpes in the heat resistant pan, and CAREFULLY light the alcohol with a long match.
Place in a dish, serve and enjoy with a glass of Heron Hill Late Harvest Vidal Blanc! Happy Holidays!