Picking grapes at Olivia Brion Winery in the Wild Horse Valley appellation in the hills to the east of the town of Napa.
I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with winemaker David Mahaffey for over 25 years. The Olivia Brion winery is the only winery in the small Wild Horse Valley appellation in the hills east of the town of Napa. Dave grows chardonnay and pinot noir on a hillside vineyard that gets cool breezes from the bay and coming across the Petaluma Plain from the Pacific Ocean.
The drive up to the vineyard goes by two small upland lakes. The vineyard is just above the fog line.
The Olivia Brion vineyard looking northwest. At 8:30 am the valley below is still clouded over by the marine layer. The netting to protect the fruit from birds has been tied back below the canopy to provide access to the grapes for picking.
Crews had started picking pinot noir by 7 am. Here they are going through the chardonnay blocks. We were picking the rows further up the hill.
Bluebird nest nestled in the chardonnay vines.
Clusters are picked into 35 pound picking lugs and moved by tractor to the crush pad.
Winemaker Dave Mahaffey drives the tractor with grapes back to the crush pad.
Lugs are individually dumped into the de-stemmer/crusher.
Stems get composted while mostly whole berries fall by gravity into one-ton fermentation bins. Gentle handling of the grapes from vine to lug to de-stemmer into the fermentation bins results in high quality wines.
Pinot Noir clusters harvested that morning.
Syrah grapes (much larger clusters) harvested the day before from a vineyard west of the town of Napa.
A bin of fermenting pinot noir at Bouchaine. CO2 produced during fermentation pushes all the skins to the surface. The ‘cap’ of skins will be punched down a few times during the day to keep the skins hydrated so color, tannins and phenolics are extracted form the skins into the fermenting wine.
By the time I left around 1pm, the marine layer had burned off. Here looking north from the road that leads up to the vineyard. You can see the flat top of Mt St Helena in Calistoga at the northernmost part of the valley in the distance.