There’s plenty happening among the vines and barrels this season
While it’s tempting to feel sad while looking out at the seemingly lifeless vineyards during the winter months, once so lush and green with the promise of an abundant harvest, this is actually an important time in Wine Country. Just because the fruit has all been brought in after harvest doesn’t mean there isn’t still work to be done, and wine to be made!
Plenty is happening in the vineyard to prep the grape vines for their dormant season, and wineries are typically abuzz with barreling and bottling, keeping their teams busy until Spring bud break.
“We barrel up and filter wines, and it’s the beginning of bottling,” says Gus Vizgirda, Winemaker at Wilson Creek Winery. “We are prepping sweet whites for bottling in January and barreling reds. We’re repairing irrigation and weeding in the vineyards.”
“It’s also when we switch from Lagers to IPAs,” he jokes.
In addition to hard work in the vineyard and cellar, there’s also a lot of planning and strategy for the next year’s harvest that takes place at this time.
“The winter season for us is defined by the completion of harvest, cooler temperatures pushing the vines into dormancy, and planning for the next year of farming,” explains Harjeet Bassi, Director of Agriculture at Stage Ranch Farm Management. “Currently we are applying soil amendments to our vines, controlling our winter weeds to ensure our vineyards are looking clean, and conducting trellis system repairs.”
In other words, things in Wine Country are very much humming with excitement… and, of course, plenty of wine tasting.
Winery owner and winemaker Nick Palumbo of Palumbo Family Vineyards and Winery paints a romantic picture of historic Wine Country winters. “In Old World traditional wine regions, it was customary – and necessary – to head to the forests to hunt in order to stock up for the winter,” he explains. “With the wine put away and the vineyards going into dormancy, it allowed the vignerons a quick break before the pruning and prepping that the vineyards will need for the next season.”
While this harkens back to times long ago, the Palumbos aren’t much different today. After enjoying a brief two-week break for some much-needed family bonding after harvest and before the work in the vineyard and cellar resumes, they make many of the same preparations as winemaking families generations before them did.
“Stocking the freezer with healthy foods for the year to come, along with time together and long mountain hikes make it all the better,” says Nick. “It’s a way we stay in touch with tradition, ensure a healthy and sustainable food source, as well as good family time that helps keep us grounded in who we really are and how in touch with nature our line of work really is. Not to mention how great those venison stew and red wine meals are during our short but cold winter here in Temecula Wine Country.”
There’s also a sense of excitement in Wine Country, as winemakers look ahead to the next season, take time to perhaps open up a few special bottles they’ve been holding for the holidays, and check in on some of those wines that have been aging in barrel. “I am most excited about the new vineyards we are planning to develop next season,” says Harjeet. “At this stage of the planning process, we are evaluating which varietals and clones we will be planting in Spring 2023.”
Adds Gus: “This is the time to ‘unwrap’ the older vintages and de-barrel them. We love seeing how they have opened up in the barrel and are excited to see what is to come for the next vintage!”
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