Winemaking, like farming and design, is a cyclical affair: at times it can be difficult to see where things begin and end. Yet there are milestones that measure out the years, like the one BCV was fortunate enough to experience this week at Joseph Phelps Vineyards.
At the onset of harvest, the end of the growing and ripening season and the beginning of indoor winemaking, vineyards celebrate another lap around the sun with a commencement of sorts: the blessing of the grapes.
Grapes are at their peak for a short time; the vineyard master and winemakers carefully test the grapes, study the weather and make the call: it is time. The vineyard hands will have begun before first light, steadily working the rows to remove one picking tub of grapes from one vine at a time. The fruit is heaved from these lug boxes into tractor-hauled picking bins holding a half ton each and brought back to the crush pad to begin its transformation. Through the skill and industry of the winemakers, and the patience of the cellar, each single vine will produce one bottle of fine wine.
In the Old Country, in the villages and towns where the chateaus and vineyards are the heart and soul of the community, the blessing is a tradition that starts with a service in the chapel and is followed by a festival of feasting and celebration in the streets.
At JPV, the beginning of the harvest is feted by the whole of the company in a localized tradition that began with Joseph Phelps over forty years ago. This year, under soft grey skies and one day earlier than the year before, the first of the harvest is toasted with speeches, Napa Valley sparkling wine and cupcakes. The brix were just right, a slightly cooler fortnight helping balance chemistry in the last days of growing. The Sauv will sing.