Today we got our first blocks of Amber Ridge Pinot Noir in the winery. The fruit from the 667 clone was especially tasty - voluptuously rich blue fruit and some sassy acidity. We put our new "crush-pad" (where we process the grapes) through its paces today - 37 half-ton bins of grapes were sorted, crushed and de-stemmed. "Crushing" is a misnomer, especially for Pinot Noir -- in the winery we want to treat the berries like the delicate children they are.
First, we sort through the harvested fruit (the crew at Amber Ridge started harvesting at midnight with the first 16 bins showing up at 8 am) by picking out leaves, looking for damaged fruit (e.g. bird damage or botrytis infection) and "second set" clusters (fruit that appears in the middle of summer and thus does not get ripe) and generally making sure that just the tastiest grapes end up in the fermenter. The grapes are then destemmed and the naked, whole berries are put into fermenters for their "cold soak" whereby the grapes are chilled to around 55 degrees for a few days before fermentation is allowed to begin. Cold soaking helps with color extraction, something that can sometimes be challenging for Pinot Noir, and also has the benefit of allowing the juice to slowly bleed out of the grapes, passing over and through the skins where the vast majority of a grapes flavor lies.
If the Amber Ridge fruit today is any sign then we will be in for a "cracker" of a 2007 vintage.