From the Vineyard to Your Glass: How Your Favorite ADK Winery Wines Are Made!
It's grape harvest season again and for the Adirondack Winery family, it's one of the most exciting times of the year.
Over the next several weeks, we'll harvest over 100 tons of grapes, trucked in New York's famous Finger Lakes wine region. For those of you who didn't know that we don't grow our own grapes, we like that we don't; because we can ship in the best grapes out there to make your favorite ADK Winery wines!
And when you combine the weather this time of year with the fact that you can see our winemaking crew in action at our Queensbury Winemaking Facility on the weekends, it makes September and October the best time to visit for a wine tasting! Keep reading to learn more about how we transform grapes into your favorite wines during harvest season.
What Is Grape Harvest Season?
Grape harvest season is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the time of year when wineries harvest their grapes to begin the winemaking process. In the Northern Hemisphere, grape harvest season is August to October (and in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s February through April). It’s a range because of different climates within the hemisphere and because some grapes take longer times to ripen than others. For example, grapes used in sparkling wines are often harvested early in the season, when they have a higher acidity. White wine grapes are typically harvested before red wine grapes; the latter of which usually requires more time on the vine to mature.
For those interested in the science behind the ripening, grapes typically transform from hard little green berries to the green or purple grapes we know (and love) at about 30 to 70 days (depending on the climate). During this stage, the vines begin to impart sugar into the grapes, decreasing the acidity in the grape as time goes on. Sun and warmth can help hurry this process along.
At the Vineyard
A vineyard is a piece of land where grapes are grown. At each vineyard is a team that closely monitors the growth of the grapes and harvests them when they are ready. Winemakers look for a few telltale signs that signal when a grape is prepared to begin its journey from vine to glass. From a simple taste test (when they’re a real expert!) to gauging sugars, acidity and tannins (the part of the grape that create the drying sensation in your mouth when drinking wine), each winemaker has their own preferred process. Of course, Mother Nature also has her say, as it is common for winemakers to move harvesting grapes up or back due to heat, cold or rain.
Large scale vineyards typically harvest grapes with a machine that will remove the bunches from the vines or in some cases the vineyard staff will hand cut the grapes from the vine using shears. This often occurs super early in the day or even at night when it’s coolest. The grapes are collected into large bins (sometimes half-ton bins!) to be transported to their winery or to other wineries that buy the grapes from the vineyard. It is estimated that 2.5 pounds of grapes are needed to yield one bottle of wine.
At the Winery
Contrary to popular belief, the winemaking process does not typically start with a group of wine elves stomping on piles of grapes.
But the grapes do need to be crushed and their stems removed.
Wineries typically use machines known as de-stemmers and crushers to get this done.
As we mentioned earlier, Adirondack Winery has its grapes shipped in from the Finger Lakes. We typically get about 100 tons of grapes (or 200,000 pounds!) shipped in – and sometimes more! And even though crushing and de-stemming the grapes is done by a machine, it still requires their team of winemakers and cellar helpers to work long days for several weeks in a row. The team is also responsible for sorting the grapes (separating the best grapes from the grapes considered unfit for winemaking).
The next steps vary based on which type of wine you are making, said Brad Casacci, our Associate Winemaker.
“White wine grapes are pressed to have their juices collected immediately after they have been crushed,” Casacci said. “Red wines are fermented first (the process where yeast converts sugars to alcohol) then pressed and that extra contact with the grape skins is what gives red wine its red color.”
Wines can be aged anywhere from a few months to a few years and wines that have been aged longer are often held in more esteem.
We hope you’ll continue to follow our social media feeds to see our winemakers in action over the next several weeks – and we hope you enjoy this year’s yield more than any other before!