Harvest is a magical time in Napa Valley. Perhaps the single most important decision a winemaker makes is deciding when to pick the grapes from the vines. It takes a balance of skill, taste, practice, and most importantly, intuition to know when it’s time to harvest. To gain a better understanding of this intricate process, we asked our head winemaker, Mari Wells Coyle, to write a blog about the beauty and magic that happens this time of year. Learn more below.
“One of my mentors once told me, as we walked through vineyards, that our job was to catch lighting in a bottle. So with every step I take into a vineyard, I look for the quick flash of brilliance where the intensity of flavors in the fruit matches the balance of acidity and sweetness. This is a combination of art and science, based on experience in hundreds of vineyards each year, and seeing each vintage through to the bottle time and time again.
What I look for in grapes
Harvest is as much about the present moment as it is about looking to the future. As winemakers we read the skins, seeds, and the foliage of the vine to understand what the potential is for the forthcoming wine. It’s a bit like looking into an abstract painting. It takes trusting your past experiences, knowing that every brush stroke is intentional.
When I walk in a mountain vineyard to check on Cabernet Sauvignon, I’m looking for dark seeds, chocolatey melt-in-your-mouth skins, and seed tannin. I check for skins that are soft and supple like a leather glove, and have the intensity of a wild blueberry or blackberry.
Other times, I’m searching down the valley for delicious apple and exotic mandarin flavors in Chardonnay, with bright acidity and skins that have lost their bitterness. These are the components that I aspire to bring to the barrel, introducing a butterscotch character with hints of creamy richness and opulence.
Connecting through wine
Napa Valley is a very special agricultural paradise. A smattering of AVAs that boast subtle distinction amongst the world’s most complex wine varietals in a variety of soil types. The care and attention to vineyards is a passion for many amongst Napa Valley. Every single vine is touched 10-15 times per year and no detail is overlooked. The spirit at harvest is of collaboration and shared education. We extend that spirit to our ONEHOPE community by connecting people through wine, just like early winemakers once shared a grape press as part of a collective effort.
Napa has long been a place of giving and fundraising through the unique wine gems produced amidst the internationally recognized agricultural mecca. To continue this tradition, ONEHOPE is a proud supporter of OLE Health, a nonprofit that provides healthcare to hundreds of farmworkers each year throughout Napa Valley. Here in Napa, and now in your homes across the country, doing good truly tastes great.
Cheers to another vintage at ONEHOPE that will make the world better through memorable wines and experiences!”
–Mari Wells Coyle, head winemaker at ONEHOPE