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We were happy to start our harvest the week after the shaking stopped in Napa. We felt very blessed that both our winery and our employees escaped with little more that broken dishes and a big mess to clean. We rallied support for our many of friends and neighbors who needed an extra hand, pulling together as a community to start the vintage right!

I think the best thing about harvest is how amazing the winery smells! Sauvignon Blanc perfumes the air with tropical notes and when the pumpover crews get started in the morning, intoxicating aromas of fermenting red wine fill the air. The last load of night-harvested Chardonnay grapes arrived at 6:00 a.m. today and the boys in the cellar will be happy to have extra sleep tomorrow morning. There is a still lot of work before all the Chardonnay is down to barrels, but the comradery of working hard to make the best wines together is best part of our jobs. Saturday finds us relaxing on the crush pad at lunchtime, enjoying a Mexican feast the crew whips up while they’re working or a fabulous home-cooked meal from our boss, Bryan Del Bondio, who is celebrating his 35th harvest here at Markham!!! The 2014 harvest has been fast, super delicious and, as I look around in surprise, is already halfway over. 

Certainly the hardest part about harvest is the long hours, but this time of the year I pop up out of bed happily each morning.  Though the thought of the non-fat latte awaiting me at the winery might also help? I know the caffeine boost helps me focus on the necessary chessboard decisions while staring at my tank board each day! My kids complain that I smell of sulfur dust when I return home at night from sampling the vineyards every morning. I watch the weather endlessly and it bums me out when the weather forecasters exhibit signs of glee at any chance of precipitation, regardless of how remote. I know we desperately need rain and it must be exciting to predict something other than sunshine daily, but those of us in the wine industry prone to drama & paranoia find no amusement in the possibility of rain showers during harvest!

Back to the good news… just this week we received our ‘Green Winery Certification’ after dedicating the same effort here at the winery that we put into our ‘Green Vineyard Certification’ back in 2013. Lots of hard work and special kudos to everyone here at the winery that played an integral part in making it happen!  2014 is shaping up to be a great growing year topped off by a powerful vintage - what more could a girl ask for?

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 CH13lables  lightsretro  barrels

Things are beginning to look different. We hope to have our winery ‘Green Certified’ through the Napa Green program before the end of the year. A big piece of the puzzle here at the winery was changing out our power guzzling lights in the cellars with energy efficient LED fixtures. The light is bright and I feel a bit like a rock star as the lights automatically light my way in the cellar. It is nice to know our efforts that began so many years ago when our vineyards received their Green Land Certification will soon be complete.  

Water conservation has played a huge part in our viticultural practices in 2014. Being a farmer, key decisions need to be made on how to protect our fruit. While we have removed leaves, this year I am using different techniques to encourage more filtered light that opens airflow to the canopy while still protecting the clusters. Conscious watering decisions by spending more time observing the vine health has luckily kept our reservoirs healthy as we approach harvest.  

Speaking of harvest, it is almost that time. Last years’ Chardonnay is going into the bottle to make room for the new vintage. Our cellar is sparkling clean as tanks are being sanitized and each new barrel delivery fills the air with toasty oak aromas. My vineyard visits lead me to think there might be a ‘crush’ of all varietals arriving to the winery at the same time, similar to the chaos of last harvest. Guess it might be time to sample some vineyards before I decide to freak out?! 

- Winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls