The Sorting Story

The 2016 harvest is in full swing!

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Our winemaking team has brought in several tons of fruit over the last three weeks after a long, sunny summer. The team toasted to the start of harvest over Chardonnay from Ritchie Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, a new vineyard source for Ram’s Gate wines. True to tradition, Winemaker Jeff Gaffner christened the first fruit with a splash of sparkling wine.

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When fruit arrives on our crushpad, its next step is to be hand-sorted.

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The sorting process is an important step in that it allows our team to guarantee the fruit’s quality. The sorters line up along a conveyor belt and separate the bad from the good. Here’s what they’re looking to remove:

  • MOG, a highly technical term for “Material Other than Grapes” – the primary culprits here are leaves that snuck into the picking bins during the harvest. As Assistant Winemaker Luke Stanko often says, “Leaves do not taste good. We don’t want something that does not taste good in our wine.”
  • Underripe (and overripe) fruit – Choosing when to pick a vineyard is one of the most difficult parts of winemaking – it’s why Winemaker Jeff Gaffner spends so much time in vineyards. Before harvesting a parcel of fruit, our team meticulously samples our portion of the site; the objective is for the harvested grapes to be at the same sugar level of the sample. For this reason, our sorting team will remove underripe clusters – overripe clusters, which look like dried-out raisins, are removed during destemming.
  • Any less-than-perfect grapes – It’s not pretty to discuss (or to pick out from the sorting table), but the occasional bit of not-so-noble rot can sneak into a cluster or two, particularly when the weather leading up to harvest is wet. Fortunately, in 2016, this has not been something we’ve seen at all.
  • Bird-damaged fruit – In the days leading up to harvest, the grapes are delicious, and the birds know it (this is one of the reasons we hire falcons to frighten away the grape-feasting birds during harvest). The few clusters that do succumb to the birds’ determined beaks become all skin and no juice, a ratio that could impact tannin and color in the final wine; these clusters, as a result, are removed prior to fermentation.

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What’s left? The most pristine clusters of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that are then de-stemmed and moved into a vessel for fermentation.

Happy harvest,

Ram’s Gate Winery

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