Harvest is over and November was a busy month inside the winery and out in the vineyards and December is no different. In the vineyards, carbohydrates continue the slow journey down into the roots in preparation for dormancy. With temperatures dropping the grapevine leaves turn from yellow and red to brown. The leaves, after taking their own Autumn color, yellow for the white grapes vines and red/purple for those with red grapes, because of the progressive disappearance of chlorophyll, start to fall down slowly: first those at the base of the shoots, then followed by the others. The plant reduces its activities also in its lymphatic system, and although it seems to have no more signs of life, actually it is preparing itself for the next cycle when it will again give fruit.
Sunny skies have been replaced with cloudy days. Along with these changes come essential operations such as the cleaning and turning the ground, and the planting of cover crops between the vine rows. These cover crops help control erosion winter rains can sometimes bring. Yes, for the grower there is little time off in November and December unlike the grapes they most definitely aren’t dormant. January is the start of the pruning season. Pruning is very important because it sets the stage for future crop levels — both quality and quantity. With so many wine grape varieties being grow in the Sonoma Wine Country our winter pruning season takes place over an extended period of time. Pruning is a highly skilled vineyard practice. The purpose is to guide the vine in certain directions and for particular purposes.
Indoors, the noises of the pump echoes through the fermentation room will give way to the almost silent work being done, as there is always plenty to do in the cellar. Work/club orders are stacked for transfer. The never ending rack, stir, and sterilize is always evident. Once the racking is done, the wine is bedded down for the Winter and cold stabilized. The winemaking teams are always busy tasting so when its your turn every wine will be just right for your palate. The winemaking team checks on the wines as fermentation is finished and the character of the wines begins to emerge. Depending on the type of wine being created, wines are allowed to ferment a little (for sweet wines) or a lot (for dry wines). In some cases, the addition of bacteria is added to the wines to convert tart malic acid to softer-tasting lactic acid (hence a secondary “malolactic” fermentation). That smell of buttered popcorn in the cellar is likely the aroma of wine undergoing malolactic fermentation. The winemaking teams also spend the winter months adjusting wine chemistry, blending and filtering. Some wines are bottled; others are put in barrels to age them and absorb the characteristics of oak. Not as romantic but just as important are the routine activities taking place, such as cleaning and upgrading equipment, making repairs, painting, and taking inventory.
Whether it’s inside the winery or out in the vineyards, there is always someone busy making sure when its your time to slow down and have a glass of your favorite Sonoma’s Wine Country Wine it is everything you want, because they did everything they could.…along with Mother Nature of course. Hmm, think I’ll have a glass right now.