Two decades of farming at Paradise Hills has taught us that because we grow four varietals of grapes — planted in many different soils with an array of sun exposure — our berries ripen sequentially, requiring up to thirty-two mini-harvests to be picked at their optimal state of maturity.
While sugar levels, acidity and pH provide basic maturity guidelines, picking decisions are made by tasting berries during our daily walk. We harvest the vineyard like a big vegetable garden. When a section is assessed to be ready, its fruiting zone is de-leafed in the late afternoon and any damaged clusters are trimmed or eliminated.
Harvesting begins at 4:00 am the next day. Picking at night is hard work but the 50 + degrees temperature of the Napa Valley prevents any wild yeast auto-fermentation. Fruit flies that can transfer acetic bacteria by contact are inactive at night. The cold also calms down the aggressive yellow jackets and protect the crew from their painful and dangerous stings. The grapes are collected in small stackable trays and immediately transferred to the winery cold caves.
Inspection and sorting begins at 7:00 am. Clusters are handpicked from the trays and individually evaluated before proceeding to the de-stemming machine.
The fruit moves onto a fifty feet long assembly of inspection conveyors operated by 18 people who remove immature, dry raisins or otherwise unperfect berries.
The grapes then pass through a machine equipped with two adjustable rollers set to just crack the berries’ skins without crushing them. This step facilitates a good maceration without freeing up excess tannins.