It was a picture perfect day to end the life of Grape X wit
h brilliant sunshine beaming down on the Niagara Escarpment, much like it was back on May 11 when Grape X evolved into a small little bud.
I was invited by Vineland Estate winemaker Brian Schmidt and viticulturist Roman Prydatkewycz to help handpick the last few of bunches of grapes at Vineland Estate’s St. Urban Riesling Vineyard. It was largely ceremonial, as the St. Urban vineyard is mostly harvested by a mechanical harvester called the Gregoire G8 with on board de-stemming. This is a tidy, efficient machine that does an excellent job picking bunches of grapes cleanly from the vines and de-stemming the bunches as it goes.
I was given a quick lesson by Prydatkewycz on how to clip the bunches off the vine that held Grape X. This is the vine that I have followed here on this blog since May for something called The Grape Chronicles. In part XI, the penultimate posting, we finally harvested our bounty.
Schmidt and his team machine harvested about 10 tonnes of gorgeous Riesling from Field D, the final block to be harvested from the St. Urban Vineyard in 2012.
He has decided to vinify separately about one tonne of that, including the vine where Grape X lived and died, for a special bottling of Riesling with a slightly higher sugar content between 25 and 50 grams per litre. The grapes were picked at 19.2 Brix with about 10% of the grapes forming botrytis fungus (this is a good thing).
It was exciting to hand-harvest the Grape X vine and carry them to the winery for processing in the receiving hopper before being crushed into juice and pumped into tanks in the winery.
Grape X was sent to a small 1,000-litre tank and finished a little sweeter than the St. Urban Elevation and Reserve labels. But that will be decided in the coming weeks after the full harvest has been brought in at Vineland Estate.
I’m looking forward to tasting the finished wine. That will be the final chapter in the Grape Chronicles.
Here are some photos from the final day of Grape X. Some new releases at Vineland are posted below the photos.
Grape X comes off the vine:
There is a technique to cutting bunches off the vine (I’m not very good):
Brian Schmidt takes a shot of me hard at work:
Vineland Estate Winemaker Brian Schmidt, right, and viticulturist Roman Prydatkewycz :
The mechanical harvester heading for Grape X:
Brian Schmidt is king of the castle:
Grape X is first in the receiver:
This man (Brian Schmidt) loves his job:
The bounty from Field D in the St. Urban Vineyard:
A gooey, delicious mess of Riesling:
Overhead of the main receiving hopper:
Heading for the crusher:
Pure Riesling juice in the tank (Grape X is in there somewhere):
And some reviews from new releases at Vineland Estates:
Vineland Estate Elevation Bo-Teek Vineyard Cabernet 2010 ($25, 91 points) —This is a blend of Cabernet Franc, some Cabernet Sauvignon and a touch of Merlot. It shows wonderful pure raspberry, cassis and currant fruit on the nose to go with soft spices and bramble bush. Its true beauty is on the palate. It’s an elegant style yet reveals a deliciously ripe fruit profile that doesn’t hammer you over the head. Schmidt says he “chose a softer, more approachable style without excessive tannins” for his Reserve tier red blend. Managing those aggressive tannins from 2010 required skill in the winery, for example, avoiding harsh pumpovers by keeping the cap (skins, etc.) submerged. The result is a juicy red with big flavours of black cherry, cassis and blackberry to go with licorice and sweet spices. It’s approachable in its youth and is built to enjoy in the next few years.
Vineland Estate Elevation Chardonnay Bo-Teek Vineyard 2011 ($20, 90 points) — Schmidt has always taken a balanced approach to making wine. Not too much oak, not too much concentration of fruit and everything in balance. It allows the wine to show its roots and mineral core and, perhaps most importantly, show well with food. It’s about being from someplace, or the catch-all phrase “terroir.” This lovely Chard displays pear-apple fruit on the nose with a core of minerality and a sprinkle of spice. It’s nicely balanced on the palate with apple pie and zesty citrus flavours to go with vanilla toast and mouth-watering acidity.
Vineland Estate Reserve Cabernet Franc Bo-Teek Vineyard 2010 ($40, 92 points) — This is classic Niagara Cab Franc, made in a style that best shows the fruit of a cool-climate wine region even in a hot vintage. Aromas range from wild raspberry and black cherry to tobacco leaf, cassis, violets, herbs and cedar. It’s rich and lavish, but not so concentrated that it’s unbalanced. All those wonderful flavours have a savoury edge on the palate with red fruits, roasted herbs, cedar and spice all playing nicely together. It is very good right now but will improve in the cellar for five or more years. Cab Franc done right.