Fence Stile Vineyard and Winery owner Shriti Plimpton decided to leave the grapes on a few rows of Vidal Blanc during the 2017 fall harvest. Depending on how the grapes developed on the vine, she planned to have the grapes harvested later in the year. Juice from the late harvest Vidal Blanc grapes would be made into a new, limited-release wine for early 2018.
Previously, Fence Stile used late harvest Vidal Blanc grapes to produce Ishq, a sweet dessert wine with a rich gold color and the flavor of golden raisin. However, this new wine would have its own identity, look, and character.
Bird netting was placed over and around the rows of Vidal Blanc to preserve remaining fruit from birds and other predators prior to harvest. Long, heavy grape clusters hung on the vine until mid-November. As temperatures dipped, the vines dropped their leaves and no longer gained fuel from sunlight.
The grapes, pale green-colored in summer, deepened in hue with a palette ranging from a deep green-gold to light purplish-bronze. The additional time on the vine enabled the grapes to build sugar level, or Brix, as well as develop its flavor and aroma profile. Picked off the vine, the grapes exhibited a concentrated flavor of caramel and hint of golden raisin.
The bird netting was carefully rolled off the rows on a brisk November morning. The cool, gray day was a stark contrast to the warm, sunny harvest days in September, where valued volunteers helped picked grapes eight to ten weeks earlier. Wearing several layers of clothes for warmth, the team began the harvest and moved down the rows at a steady pace. The clusters were easier to spot since the vines bore no leaves. White five-gallon buckets, full of grapes were hauled to the winery production facility.
Since the harvest yield was much smaller than fall harvest, a wine bladder press was used to press the grapes rather than the larger, high-volume press normally used on the crush pad. A slotted metal screen forms the cylindrical body of the tri-legged press. Grapes are packed inside the press around a bladder in the center. Water is pumped into the bladder so it expands and pushes, or presses, the grapes against the walls of the cylinder. Grape juice is expelled through the slotted screen and collected in a tray that drains into a storage container.
In this case, a second fruit was also included in the grape crush – blackberries.
Last summer, Fence Stile's team harvested blackberries from its bushes near Concord grapevines located just off the private patio behind the old winery tasting room building. The blackberries, frozen for preservation until November, were added to the crush. Bright magenta berry juice and grape juice trickled down the walls of the press.
Wine from this juice was the culmination of planning, patience and development in 2017. The result is something to behold and taste – soon!
Scheduled for release in early February 2018, Vidal Noir is a blackberry Vidal Blanc dessert wine. Fence Stile's newest release is a product of several seasons – summer's bounty of homegrown berries, a late fall harvest of grapes, and wine craft over winter. We're excited to release and share this limited-edition wine.
Check back on Fence Stile's blog and social media for more details about the wine's appearance, flavor and bottling. As a limited-edition, small batch dessert wine that's meant to be consumed young rather than aged, Vidal Noir is a wine that won't last long on the shelves in our Tasting Room.
Creative director Pete Dulin documents wine, food and operations at Fence Stile Vineyards and Winery through writing and photography.