It was a foggy morning and a chilly fall day when the harvester began zig-zagging the rows of Norton. As the fog danced along the slope of the vineyard, the machine gently removed the ripe fruit from the vine and delivered it to the crush pad, a few yards away.
We expected this crop to be the largest volume of Norton that we had seen. We thought that we could get 18-20 tons of fruit, but we ended up with 12.38 tons which is on par with past years. Why the lower volume? While the vineyard produced a lot of fruit this year, the volume of the grapes was lower since they had begun dehydrating and therefore held less water. Dehydration was a direct result of the warmer weather in August and September which produces more concentrated flavor, but leads to less juice. Not a bad problem to have in the end since a more structured flavor profile will produce a much higher quality wine. This is exciting stuff and Brandon went so far as to claim that this was the “best harvest ever” due to the weather conditions. A relatively dry growing season and extended warm weather during ripening is the perfect situation for vineyards.
We were already excited about the quality of the fruit (mildly disappointed with lower volume), but when Brandon and Gabe began the fermentation process, they realized that we might have something special in this vintage of Norton. Brandon explains what they experienced in far more scientific terms, but allow me to paraphrase (and hopefully do it justice). During fermentation, the yeast metabolizes sugar in the juice and different aromas are released throughout this process. Brandon’s eyes lit up when he described the strong aromas omitted from the fermenting juice which naturally leads to a wine with good structure and complex flavors. “Norton is the backbone of our dry red program and it’s exciting to see what this vintage will do in the coming years”, said Brandon as he rattled off all of the wines that this Norton could make it’s way into over the course of the next 3-4 years: 2017 Norton, Reserve Norton, Ridgeview, Owner’s Reserve Cuvée, and possibly Volume VIII Port (we are selling Volume IV at the moment). Brandon points out that Norton was our best seller in 2017. Which makes the quality of this vintage all the more satisfying, but highlights the impact of a lower yield than planned. Nonetheless, we will toast to this very exciting harvest season and look forward to the wines to come!
NortonHarvest Date: October 16
Pressing Date: October 26