Harvest 2023 Recap
By Darin Peterson, Head Winemaker
This time of year is unlike any other: it’s harvest season – where we pull the grapes from the vines and start turning them into wine. Harvest always brings the usual challenges with it, like crushing truckloads of grapes in short amounts of time, navigating round-the-clock shifts, equipment malfunctions, and the list goes on. But the weather this year brought a whole new set of challenges to harvest. We had an abundance of rain that initially sounded great because it meant a lot of fruit and lush vines, but the flip side is that there was more foliage early on, so mildew prevention became paramount. So, we started the year with mildew pressure, which remained most of the growing year with bouts of cool weather and some moist weather at the beginning of summer, followed by tropical storm effects rolling through when we started harvest.
I usually say that not a lot will stop vines, but this year I witnessed what will stop vines: enough excessive heat. Before this year, I’d never seen vines almost stop in their tracks in an all-in manner. All of the white grape varieties were really stalled and their maturity was hard to predict. The Orange Muscat was the most challenging for us, which is a bit of a paradox because it’s a more resilient and bulletproof type of grape; it has thicker skin and you can be a little less cautious with it. This time around the ripening process really dragged and was such a challenge to deal with. But ultimately the weather was challenging not just for Quady Winery, but the whole region, up and down the entire greater San Joaquin Valley. Everyone had problems with weather-driven phenomena – it was ever present.
As the winery continues to grow and expand, we also find ourselves navigating the installation and use of new equipment to help our processes and workflow. We’ve been working on getting our PacPress up and running this year, which will automate a lot of our wine clarification process, and next year, two self-emptying tanks will be operational. Aside from efficiency, our ultimate goal with everything that we improve on the equipment side is so we can harvest grapes at their ripest point and harness the effects of maceration – soaking the grapes overnight to get as much character from the skins as we can. Not a lot of wineries do this, but it’s incredibly important to our winemaking process and the flavors and aromas in our wines.
Our winemaking team, from myself all the way down to the newest member of the cellar staff, continues to learn more about ourselves, the facility, our harvest processes, how they’ve been refined, and how to get the most out of them. We have a cross-training approach that’s been nice to see; people continue to rise to the challenge, develop their skillsets and get better. This is our third year with Juan Cuevas as Cellarmaster; our Production Manager, Dan Mejia, is like the Rock of Gibraltar, he’s been at Quady for 40 years! Crystal Weaver-Kiessling, our other Winemaker, really upped her game this year. She pretty much drove the day operations during harvest so all I had to do was follow along with what needed to be done during the night shift.
That’s the main driver for us: harvest reminds us that we’re just trying to do good work with good stuff. And keep it together and keep our sanity about us, which I think everybody in the wine industry says during harvest! Cheers!