March is the month when wineries seriously start to emerge from the hibernation of the winter months. It is a time of great anticipation, nervousness, planning, and all the work starts to shift gears.
In the vineyard, it can be a very tricky time depending on mother nature. In 2021 a mild temperate start to the year spurred growth early and everything seemed to time out nicely but persistent drought conditions stress the region. In 2022 what started out mild suddenly dipped back towards freezing causing damage to some vineyards which combined with ongoing drought conditions resulted in significant drops in yields throughout the region, the grape growers were not happy.
Now 2023 has started out so very differently. Persistently cold in the winter months without extreme freezing is a welcome change for the vines which have had a well earned rest after the last season. The evolutionary timeline has landed close to what should be standard, as the freezing temperatures started to fade in late March. Glorious rains have replenished the parched soils with quantities not seen in decades. Some over ambitious growers planted well into the wetlands taking advantage of water shortages, and some of those vineyards remained submerged under water for weeks. The rest of the vineyards are in full recovery mode and things look great for the coming season.
Some parts of Sonoma County started to welcome bud break by mid March, and the rest have awakened slowly but surely in preparation for what is anticipated to be a great year. The landscape is green, the cover crops are vibrant which will provide some nice backup fertilization as they get tilled back in between the vine rows, and the new growth on the vines is rising fast.
Making predictions of what this years wines will be so premature, and frankly meaningless at this time. A lot can happen between now and harvest. What we do know, is that so far..... everything is looking great.
In the winery, bottling is rolling steadily along as more and more previous vintages find their way to stability for future enjoyment. As with every step of the process, this can be a tricky time. You have invested so much time and energy into making the best wine you possibly can. Now you had better make sure that you preserve that incredible goodness in a way that will hold for years to come. Our sophisticated bottling line can handle between 1000 and 2000 cases a day but a lot of moving parts have to synchronize with a skilled staff for things to go smoothly. The slightest hiccup and everything grinds to a halt, but when everything works it is mesmerising to behold.
In its' simplest form, you place your wine into a tank in close proximity to the bottling line. Attach a hose, and a pump and connect it to the bottling line. Dump a case of empty bottles at the beginning of the line (and continue doing so for the duration of the run). Fill up your cork hopper and label spool. Turn on the machine and watch it work! The bottles travel down a channel, get purged with gas, filled with wine, corks inserted, capsules sealed, labels applied, and at the exit channel someone puts those bottles back into the case and as it rolls down the exit chute it gets taped and labeled and then someone lifts and stacks onto a waiting pallet. Now imagine you are the guy, the last link in the chain lifting those boxes, 33 pounds at a time. At the end of the day you have had quite the workout having moved 15 tons of product!!!!