Being the latest start to harvest for Chehalem, on October 18th, we have had some anxiously waiting harvest crew waiting, both in the vineyard and winery. Chad has found productive vineyard crew activity spreading bird netting, catching up on liming and composting, and bottling. And the talented winery crew from far-flung areas began as early as July, spending time racking, bottling, sampling vineyards, cleaning and maintaining equipment–twiddling thumbs until finally beginning at a time when most vintages are complete.
Some years we have had almost entirely female crews. This year is a flip on that theme, with this following equally strong crew:
- Felix Egerer joined us in July from enology school in Geisenheim, the most auspicious wine school in Germany, with the intent to get as much experience prior to harvest and then rush back as late as possible during harvest. Of course, our late harvest didn’t work out well, especially with his desire to help make some Pinot noir, but his time here until he flew out October 22nd showed his exceptional intelligence, drive, baking talents, humor, and an ability to get along well with everyone. He whipped our butts in Scrabble. We invite him back to experience a normal vintage.
- Romain Cornin is the younger generation of a Macon winery family, graduating with a masters from Jules Guyot University at Dijon, and working harvest in Portugal, Alsace, Chablis and most recently New Zealand. He is spirited and a very good team player, pitching in wherever he is needed. An indicator of his fun approach, is his good naturedly betting our Kiwi Chad Douglas on the World Cup Rugby final that he’d shave his head if France lost. The result? Let’s just say Chad didn’t have to shave and Romain is sporting a nice knit hat.
- Andrew Catalano is a perfect example of convergence, as many of us move in the direction our passions and skills demand. A Phi Beta Kappa Philosophy grad from Wesleyan, he traveled for study in Bologna, experienced organic farming and great cuisine, worked in three top New York City restaurants including Gramercy Tavern and Maialino, and now wants to pursue the wine side of the equation. Quiet and contemplative, he erupts in a bright and noisy smile at times, is always up to his elbows in grapes and work, and absorbs it all. He is one of the go-to guys for lab work.
- Luke Matthews answers the question “what do you do when you’ve coordinated for years TV events as big as the Emmys, SuperBowl, Obama’s inauguration, managed a restaurant in LA, sold wine for Gallo and bought wine for Whole Foods.” Answer: you get into winemaking and write about it. Luke blogs about making wine (www.HipsterEnology.com) and came to Chehalem at the recommendation of two past harvest interns, one Michael Newsome, his cohort at Whole Foods in Venice CA, who worked here in 2007 and Dominic Maxwell also from 2007 harvest who is back in New Zealand at Greystone, where Luke did harvest this spring. Luke came directly from Burning Man in the desert, in a big box RV, blogging as he climbed out to start this part of the adventure. Check out his blog.
- Cheney Vidrine is a good friend of Chehalem, having worked at our tasting room part-time after doing harvest in the valley, which he then followed with two harvests down under in Australia and New Zealand the first half of this year. With a Masters in Wood Science, he first visited NZ several years ago to study at Lincoln, where Mike Eyres matriculated. His technical papers have imposing titles–ask him about them. But make sure it’s Cheney you’re talking to–he has an identical twin also in the valley.
- Keith Richardson is one of two winery relations working harvest to make up for Felix having to return and the condensed nature of the harvest. Keith is the son of Priscilla, our accountant, and has traveled broadly also, bringing in addition a local context having grown up here. A hard worker, he has quickly learned the physical realities of the winery (punchdowns), the drudgery (sorting) and the cleaning (cleaning!).
- Stephen Peterson is helping for the second year in a row, able to slip in several times over the year when we need experienced help in a pinch. He is my nephew (Wynne’s cousin) and is making a home in the area, with a significant other, a new apartment, and plans to grab a last few classes at PSU. He’s still writing music.
As talented as this group is, without the direction of the full-time winemaking team of Mike Eyres, Wynne Peterson-Nedry and Ksenija Kostic House, we’d be a far cry from patiently moving from a standstill to racing full-tilt in what will be an excellent vintage.
Late, but at last.
Weather and Its Implications
OK, I jinxed us in the last Harvest Page by talking about no rain in the prior 2 weeks. That night we got 0.21 inches and so Saturday we did not pick and got a chance to finish processing the chilled Pinot noir and Chardonnay from Friday. This Sunday morning, as I write, we’ve had a shower band move through with just enough rain to keep us out of the fields today. The next three days look dry, clear and sunny much of the time, so we will start and completely pick all of Ridgcrest Pinot noir, Gamay noir and Pinot gris, as well as completing Chardonnay and Pinot blanc at Stoller. A total of more than 100 tons.
The warming that ushered in the Friday rain, is now turning cool, so fruit will be protected from mold growth. A yet to be fully understood rain event Thursday will see only Riesling and Gruner remaining to be picked, plus a little Pinot noir close-by the winery at Corral Creek.