Recently, veraison was in full swing at Hawk Haven and you know what that means, right? No? You don’t? Oh… well… this is awkward…
Not to worry, most people have no idea what “veraison” is, let alone how to pronounce it. Todd says it like the word “version” but with an “ay” between the r and s. But fancy Lou pronounces it the French way so it sounds like “vera-ZON” (say it with a French accent). I say it like… well, mostly I try not to say it at all, so instead I’ll just tell you what it is and show you some pictures.
Simply put, veraison is what is happening when the grapes turn from an opaque green to whatever color they’re meant to turn when they’re fully mature. That means your red wine grapes like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are turning different hues of purple, violet, and even blue. Similarly, the white wine grapes like Riesling and Chardonnay are changing to a golden tone, or a more translucent shade of green.
Below are some photos of our grapes in transition. You’ll notice that some varietals are farther along than others. The best way to see them, though, is on our Vineyard & Winery Tour where you’ll get up close and personal with the vines. You can also see more photos of veraison from our 2009 harvest by clicking here.
The Hawk Haven tasting room is not a bad place to work. We get to meet new people every day, they all come in with a smile on
their face (or if they don’t, we know they’ll be smiling after a few sips), and we’re surrounded by delicious, locally made, award winning wines. Sometimes, however, it’s nice to get out of the tasting room and check out what else is happening, and there’s always something to see. On weekends it’s the folks outside enjoying crepes and live music on the crush pad. During the week sometimes we’ll see Todd or one of his guys out in the vineyard. And since the other day I had such a fun and informative visit to our winery building while they were blending, I figured I would stop by again to see what Todd and Lou were up to. On this day’s agenda: filtration.
During filtration, the wine is pumped out of its tank and pushed through layers of pads in a process called “depth filtration.” This process removes lees (dead yeast), tartrates, and other particles that might be hanging around in there. While I was there, they were pumping wine they had blended last week through the filter and into another tank. Todd said the whole process can be a lot like a sliding puzzle, where you have one empty slot and you have to move all the pieces around to form the final picture. “You always have to have at least one empty tank, and it should be the biggest one.”
That seems like such a waste, doesn’t it? Those tanks are not cheap! But
when you have to pump 1,320 gallons of Riesling through a filter, you’re going to want to be able to put it into something that will hold it all. On this day they were filtering Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, QUILL, and a red blend that will be part of our new Flying Press series, all in preparation for bottling. Once bottled, we just have to wait until the wines get settled in their new homes, before it is finally time to move out of the bottle and into your glass.
It’s been nearly two years since the red varietals, which we harvested back in the fall of 2012, were first put into the French oak barrels where they began the aging process. While they sat in there soaking up all the flavors that the oak lends to the wine, like vanilla, mocha, and caramel, we waited patiently for them to finish. Well, somewhat patiently, since this past February we eagerly dug out the wine thief for some barrel tastings. They were so good then that I brought over any container I could find in the hopes of bringing some home, but Todd said no, they need just a little more time. He also was very against the idea of pouring his precious Cabernet Franc into a tupperware container.
But now that the bottling date is finally approaching and the wines are more than ready to go, we have started moving them out of the barrels and into stainless steel tanks. Meet Lou, our wine maker Todd’s new assistant.
Lou is using the wine pump to transfer some Tempranillo into one of the tanks you see in the background. The tanks will be sealed shut until we are ready to bottle (August 4th, come see us in action!), and once in the bottle we will let them rest for a few weeks to allow them to settle and to allow any instances of bottle-shock to dissipate.
We will have several standalone varietals like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, but this is the time when we will also do any blending that Todd has planned. For instance, yesterday he and Lou were working on blending a NEW wine from our NEW Flying Press series (it’s NEW!). They basically get a bunch of glasses, put different amounts of wine into each glass, and taste them all to see which one was best. Those of us working in the tasting room that day were lucky enough to try some as well, and I’ll just say we cannot wait for you to try it.
By now you’re probably wondering, “When???? WHEN do I get to try these delicious wines!?” Some of you may have even pre-ordered them at one of our barrel tastings earlier this year. Todd says that we will start releasing the reds in mid to late September. I know, it seems like forever, but just remember that time always flies. And in the meantime, there is plenty of good wine to be had here in the tasting room! We are open daily for wine tastings and tours, and visit us on the weekend for Saturdays on the Crushpad and Sangria Sundays!
Something exciting is underway at Hawk Haven (in addition to our regular, everyday exciting) that we wanted to share with you. We’ve been calling it “The Rutgers Research Project at Hawk Haven” (or Rutger’s Project for short) because it is headed by Dan Ward, the Assistant Extension Specialist, and Peter Oudemans, the Associate Professor, both of Rutgers’ Plant Biology and Pathology department. Together with the Outer Coastal Plains Association, they developed a four year trial to see how two rare and unique varietals grow here on the East Coast.
It all began a few years ago when Todd’s quality management of the vineyard caught Dan’s attention. He saw a guy who really cared about the plants and worked hard every day to bring each vine to its full potential. So Hawk Haven Vineyard was chosen, along with three other vineyards throughout the state, to participate in a mutli-year study of the different growing climates of New Jersey. Each vineyard was chosen based on their location as well as the dedication and commitment of the vineyard managers to their land. In that respect, we were very honored to have been selected and look forward to seeing the results.
We were provided with ten vines each of two different varietals. The first, Lagrein, is a red grape native to Northern Italy, known for its full body and high acidity. Besides Italy, it can also be found growing in Australia and New Zealand, and it is related to Pinot Noir and Syrah. The second is a relative of the Lagrein grape, another red Italian varietal called Teroldego, an even more rarely found grape. Teroldego is known for producing a deeply pigmented, fruity wine. Both varietals are almost nonexistent here in the states and have been quarantined at UC Davis for several years to test for inherent diseases and to see how they stand up against any diseases and pests that are native to North America.
The experiment also involved the installation of a weather station out in the vineyard that will record various factors like wind, humidity, precipitation, and temperature. There are even these little “leaves” that are placed within the canopy among the real leaves and will record leaf wetness. This information is uploaded via cell tower to a website that Dan & Peter will use to study all these factors at each of the four vineyards. The best part is that we also get access to this information which will be extremely useful to us going forward in planning future vineyard maintenance.
We planted the vines earlier this spring, the weather station is all set up (you can check it out during our Vineyard & Winery Tour), and we also hired an intern who has experience in plant physiology. She will be helping Todd with petiole sampling to monitor nutrients, testing the sugar content in the grapes (°brix), and other information recording for this Rutgers Project. And get this: once the grapes are grown, we get to keep the fruit! So in a few years you might see some blends featuring Lagrein or Teroldego in the racks of our tasting room. In fact, we should probably start practicing how to properly pronounce those varietals.
By the end of the experiment, Dan and Pete will have collected enough weather information to see the difference in climate across the state and how it affects the vines. We think this will be really great for the New Jersey grape growing industry because in addition to producing award-winning wines, we will have cold, hard facts to support NJ as an excellent growing region. So stay tuned, we will continue to give updates on the progress of this experiment, and we can’t wait to see how these varietals grow here and if they will produce good wines for us.
Véraison is a viticulture term meaning “the onset of ripening”. The word is French in origin, but has been adopted into English use. The official definition of véraison is “change of color of the grape berries.” véraison represents the transition from berry growth to berry ripening, and many changes in berry development occur at véraison. It’s also what the vines at Hawk Haven have just finished going through.
That’s right, the new grapes have finished their major growth spurt, and are now focusing on changing from a tart, green acidic berry into the sweet juicy berries that we want to change into wine. The first phase of a grape’s life is marked with rapid growth and a build up of water and acids. As the grapes go through véraison and change from bright green to their ripened color, many of the acids break down and new sugars are formed and accumulate within the berry.
While the change is most noticeable in the dark skinned grapes, even the lighter colored berries go through the same process, changing from bright green to a more golden color. As the change occurs, the grapes also become more attractive to pests such as birds and insects; as the smell of the ripening grape changes from acidic to fruity and sweet. The berries themselves are now more susceptible to disease, and extra care must be taken to make sure that they all have a chance to make it into your glass.
The next part of the vineyard schedule is wrapping the vines in nets to protect against the biggest threat; birds!