Scott Harvey Wines


Scott & Jana Harvey
February 5, 2021 | Scott & Jana Harvey

Wine and Chocolate for Valentine's Day - the perfect pairing

Chocoate and wine don't really share much of the same "terroir".

Most cacao trees are grown in West Africa, Asia, and South America.  Most South American cacao is grown in Brazil and Ecuador, not wine producing countries like Argentina and Chile.  That's because cacao trees grow best in heat and humidity.  Vines, on the other hand, do not.

Think wine goes with just any chocolate? Think again! The richness, sweetness, and center palate of any type of chocolate pairs best with wines with equal richness. They also pair best with wines that have some perceived sweetness, either from residual sugar or alcohol, and a structured tannic center and finish to help draw out the extractive nature of both the chocolate and the wine. 

With that, we’ve broken down the three most popular types of chocolate and paired them with the perfect Scott Harvey wine for you to enjoy year-round. Whether you use this for a virtual wine and chocolate tasting, a girl’s night, dinner party, or date night, these pairings won’t disappoint!

White Chocolate & Tickle Me Pink Rose

It’s no secret white chocolate is sweeter than dark, and a great rule of thumb is the sweeter the chocolate, the sweeter the wine. 

White chocolate isn't technically "true" chocolate because it doesn't contain cacao (the brown part with all the flavanols)

Since white chocolate is delicate enough to match with white wines, our sexy, sassy Tickle Me Pink delivers flavors of peaches and cream with floral notes of rose and a touch of spritz.  Sparkling wines make the pairing have extra creaminess.


Milk Chocolate & Forte Port-style Wine

Milk chocolate requires something a touch heavier, and our Forté Port-style wine is the ticket. Flavors of candied red fruits, raspberry, and cranberry melt into flavors of red licorice and chocolate, while the soft tannins flow into a long, sweet plum finish. This hint of sweetness coupled with earthy undertones rounds out the chocolate beautifully.

While our Port is a touch sweet, it won’t overwhelm the palate with too much sugar, meaning it can also pair perfectly with fudge and chocolate chip cookies. This wine is complex enough to make the tasting experience intriguing, but won’t clash with or overpower it.


Dark Chocolate & Just One Last Kiss Red Blend

Last but not least, bold and savory dark chocolate is the perfect excuse to explore a dryer wine. The polyphenols in dark chocolate mirror those in wine which can give both a somewhat bitter taste. It's also the part of the chocolate that gives you all the health benefits.The bitterness in dark chocolate is what you want to balance out with a properly selected wine pairing. 

Our first recommendation is the Just One Last Kiss Red Blend, which has 11% of our Forte Port-style wine blended in to add to the complexity of this pairing. The base of this fruit-forward red blend is Zinfandel, while the Forte laces through the wine to make up the full-bodied finish. Made with a mouthwatering balance, the wine is full of spicy cloves and blackberry fruit.

Because dark chocolate is such a show-stopper, our pairings don’t end there! Our Jana Cabernet Sauvignon hails from three vineyards all very close together off of the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley. This wine was aged for 21 months in French Oak creating a flavorful experience with well-rounded tannins, structure, and aromas. This dark chocolate works with this wine because it mellows the tannins, but also has enough fruit and structure to withstand the boldness of the chocolate. This is the ultimate classic pairing!

Finally, if you’re feeling “zin-ful”, our InZinerator Zinfandel - which has 9% of our Forte included - is also a wonderful option because it’s full of bold black cherry flavors. This wine is a lone warrior in the world of Zins, and Oak aging contributes to its rounded complexity with just a hint of sweetness.

No matter your chocolate preference, we have a wine for every type and every occasion!

Time Posted: Feb 5, 2021 at 1:30 PM
Scott & Jana Harvey
April 25, 2020 | Scott & Jana Harvey

Effects of COVID-19 on the Business

Listen as Scott discusses the effects of COVID-19 on wine production and how it financially impacts both our winery and wineries alike. Simply click the photo to watch the video!

​Learn about the impacts on wine production:

Learn about the financial impacts on the winery:

Time Posted: Apr 25, 2020 at 12:09 PM
Brian Overhauser
March 30, 2020 | Brian Overhauser

Cooking During the COVID-19 Shelter-In-Place: As Told By Chef Brian Overhauser

As a young boy, I remember many times looking into our family pantry and saying to my mother, “there’s nothing to eat in here!” The reason I would say that is because I was only looking for what I wanted, not what was there.

At one point or another, I’m sure we’ve all investigated our pantry full of food items and simply did not see a meal. Most often we drive to the store and buy what we crave at that moment, then go home and make ourselves happy with what we want. Not a bad way to live, but things have changed this week - I’m shut-in for the first time in my life!

The Challenge

This week, I decided to challenge myself by creating spontaneous meals from only my pantry with a little help from my freezer, spice cabinet, and wine rack.

For me, wine and food pairings are about balance. With the many tastes and aromas found in wine, I attempt to marry the flavors and textures of an ingredient to a specific wine. I call this “reverse pairing”. In my perfect pairing, neither the wine or the food dominate each other. The two together deliver a level of contrast and balance that neither could achieve alone.

Complement vs. Contrast

There are two directions one can take when pairing wine with food. You can either complement the wine with similar flavors profiles, or go for contrast (as in, opposing flavors). Complementary flavor matching is generally more successful; however, while opposing flavor pairings may be more complex, the satisfaction of getting it right is extra rewording.

The most important thing to remember is to be an adventurist and enjoy the journey!

As mentioned earlier, at first glance it doesn’t appear there’s much of a meal in the pantry, so let’s investigate what might be hidden.

Option 1: Spicy Red Beans & Rice

Based on what I find first, I’m envisioning a simple but slightly spicy red bean and rice dish which will be very easy and pair perfectly with our InZINerator Zinfandel.

The main ingredient here is a bag of dried red beans, or any dried beans you might have. Canned beans would be faster, but you won’t get the complexity and depth resulting from the slow cooking with all the spices and aromatic ingredients. Even so, we’re not in much of a rush these days so you may as well enjoy it!

Simply pour the beans into a stockpot and add 2 quarts of fortified water. Then, bring to a boil and reduce to a medium-low heat for one hour. Drain the water, return beans to the pot, and add the 1 quart of fortified water. Add the remaining ingredients and set to medium-low for another hour.

I’ve put together the full recipe and everything you’ll need, here. The total time to craft this was 2 ½ hours, but that’s largely due to the cook time as the skill level is very easy. [A plate of food on a table Description automatically generated]

Option 2: Chicken Two Ways

In order to make a chicken taste close to the free-range chickens you might find in a restaurant, you must brine the bird.

I decided to brine the chicken whole, so I used a 12-quart non-reactive container, preferably with a tight-fitting lid.

My standard brine is 3 cups of salt and 1 cup of sugar, and what you do to add additional flavor is determined by what aromatics and goodies you have on hand.  [A bowl of soup Description automatically generated]

I found some citrus that needed to be used and happened to have some fresh thyme and oregano. I then filled the container with cold water, added the ingredients, and stirred to dissolve all of the salt and sugar.

Add the whole chicken and refrigerate it for 6 to 10 hours, then sit back and let the magic happen.

Now that I know I have a brined chicken in my future, what’s in the pantry?

At this point, I have no preconceived idea what this chicken will be, but here are my choices from the pantry - now the creativity and fun starts!

Oven-Roasted French-Style Chicken

To keep it simple, I chose an oven-roasted chicken. While in France, I saw a wonderful and very simple method of butterflying a whole chicken for oven roasting that cooks it very evenly. 

Simply take some good poultry shears and cut out the backbone by cutting up one side of the backbone and then down the other side. Remove the backbone, then put the chicken breast side up and press very hard on the chicken to flatten it out. Tuck the wings back and bring the leg and thigh section into the side of the breast. [A piece of food Description automatically generated]

It’s been 6 hours in the brine, and I have butterflied it as described. I then put the chicken into a 350-degree convection oven for 45 minutes, then dropped the temperature to 220 degrees for another 45 minutes. The photo included here is what this should look like.

You’re welcome to stop here and simply pair this chicken with basic vegetables and a side, such as rice pilaf or couscous. Or, you can continue on to the next and final recipe to shake it up a little!

Chicken Tacos

My lovely wife Nancy has asked for chicken tacos, so I decided to go in that direction but apply my French technique and have some fun.  [A picture containing indoor, table, room, clock Description automatically generated]

I selected enchilada sauce, a can of roasted green peppers, and canned refried beans. I also had some shredded cheese and sour cream in the fridge. As a garnish, and to bring some green to the dish, I cut a fine shred of raw broccoli off the tops simply because I had it on-hand. That’s how new thinking happens in the culinary arts - “if you have it, use it.”

Both versions of these chicken dishes would pair beautifully with our Tickle Me Pink Rose, which has an off-dry characteristic and a very nice effervescence. It’s a great wine for a spicier flavor profile such as this.

No matter what you piece together in your kitchen during these uncertain times, we hope this helps you find some inspiration and a little fun along the way! While our tasting rooms might be closed, our online wine shop remains open so you can stock up and create your own masterful wine and food pairing. If you’d like to email me directly regarding recipes or directions, please feel free to do so at

Time Posted: Mar 30, 2020 at 8:45 AM
Scott Harvey
January 15, 2020 | Scott Harvey

History of Zinfandel and Amador County

You may or may not know how significant the Zinfandel varietal is in Amador County, but with this month being Zinfandel month for Scott Harvey Wines, Scott took some time to elaborate on the various plantings and noteworthy events of this grape in our region. Enjoy Scott’s account of the history of how Zinfandel came to be celebrated in this part of California, and how he became involved in working with the grape.

First Major Zinfandel Plantings

Zinfandel first came to Amador County during the California Gold Rush. Gold was found in the Sierra Foothills in 1848, and soon the California Gold Rush of 1849 was attracting large numbers of people from all around the world to the Sierra Nevada and what would later become Amador County. These gold miners brought a thirst with them, and soon some of them began to plant vineyards on their mining claims. Incredibly, our Vineyard 1869 Zinfandel is a vineyard that still produces wine from this period. 

The vineyard was planted on the Upton gold mining claim and was developed by Mahala Upton, a widow with six children. Not only is this vineyard still making wonderful wine, but many of her descendants are still farming in the Shenandoah Valley of Amador County today.

Second Major Zinfandel Plantings

From 1920 until the end of 1933, Prohibition took its toll on Amador County’s commercial winery production with only one winery surviving. The rest of the grape growers, including my grandfather, moved to selling grapes to the home winemaking market. They sold grapes to what we called “Jobbers”. These were people that bought grapes in wooden grape boxes and sent them east on railroad cars to the markets in Chicago and New York. In fact, some of the great wine family names you know of today started out this way. The Gallo brothers, Ernest and Julio Gallo, were both born in Amador County. Robert 

Mondavi, originally from an Italian mining community from the iron ranges of Minnesota, was sent to California to secure grapes during Prohibition.

Grape acreage in Amador County increased during Prohibition because the terroir in this county produces grapes at higher sugar levels while maintaining great acidity. Since home winemakers don’t use SO2 (sulfur dioxide), the naturally higher alcohol levels from the Amador Zinfandel would make the wine last longer, or as the home winemakers put it, “the wine was less likely to go sour.” 

Third and Current Zinfandel Plantings

During and after Prohibition, Zinfandel growers of Amador county continued to sell their grapes to home winemakers. However, things were soon to change because of a Sacramento college teacher by the name of Charles Myers. 

As an accomplished home winemaker in the early 1960s, Charles was lamenting to one of his classes about the high cost of grapes in Napa Valley.  A student-directed him to her cousins in Shenandoah Valley who grew Prohibition-era Zinfandel vineyards, and the rest is history. The high quality of Charles’ Amador county Deaver Vineyard Zinfandels got people like Sacramento wine merchant, Darrel Corti, and Napa Valley’s Trinchero family to invest in Amador County Zinfandel and promote it. From there, Corti convinced a man named Cary Gott to build a substantial winery in 1973. In 1974, I went to work for Cary Gott at Montevina Winery as an apprentice. Ever since I have been making and promoting Zinfandel from Amador County, going on 46 years now. 

Cheers to Zinfandel month and this incredible grape we’re proud to produce for you each year. If you’re local, stop in and try our classic Amador County wines - we’re open daily from 11am-5pm!

- Scott Harvey, Winemaker

Time Posted: Jan 15, 2020 at 9:32 AM
Scott & Jana Harvey
December 31, 2019 | Scott & Jana Harvey

Our Highlights of 2019!

2019 was quite a year! We have so many wonderful things to celebrate and highlights to share, check out a quick summary of our year below!

Time Posted: Dec 31, 2019 at 10:22 AM
Scott & Jana Harvey
November 28, 2019 | Scott & Jana Harvey

Three of Our Favorite Holiday Pairings

Brian Overhauser, Estate Chef
I love the saying, “a magnum bottle of wine is the perfect size for two people if one of them isn’t drinking.” While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, it’s true that magnum bottles are excellent choices for enjoying wine as a group. As the holiday season is full of group dinners, parties, and get-togethers, it’s the perfect time to dive into the wonderful world of wine magnums.
Though it seems like a leap to upgrade from the standard 750ml bottle, it really isn’t. At 1.5 liters, a magnum is the equivalent of two standard wine bottles. Given each standard bottle contains five glasses of wine, it isn’t extravagant to suggest a magnum for a table of four dinner guests – that only works out to two and a half glasses of wine per person. There are so many flavor benefits as well.

So, don’t hesitate to put some older vintage, large format bottles on your holiday table this year! Our 2012 Vineyard 1869 Zinfandel 1.5L bottle, produced in the Old World style, has a beautiful balance of fruit, French oak, structural tannins, and medium alcohol. This makes for a perfect option to pair with all of the typical Thanksgiving fixings.


Mollie Haycock, Assistant Winemaker
I like to start holiday meals and parties with sparkling wine, such as our Jana Blanc de Blanc. It may seem predictable, but it’s such a festive way to begin any event. To me, sparkling pairs well with so many things - especially lighter appetizers. Holiday meals for us tend to be filled with heavy foods and lots of flavors, so starting with something light is a nice balance. 

We usually start with a cheese and charcuterie board with dried fruits, jams, mustards, and local honey. Sparkling pairs great with anything you might include in a platter, and each of the items enhances something different in the wine. The natural acidity in the Jana Blanc de Blanc pairs beautifully with both soft, creamy cheese and bold, hard cheese.




Clinton Harders, Tasting Room Lead, Sutter Creek
One of my favorite parts of the holiday season can be expressed by a simple word: fondue. My family does our big turkey meal around lunchtime on Thanksgiving day. By the time the day ends, everyone can go for something to eat, but no one really wants to cook again. So, the day before Thanksgiving, I prepare a large batch of fondue and have it ready to heat for Thanksgiving evening. 

With a touch of a button and a little time, we’re ready to dip everything from sausage to apples in the cheesy goodness! And, a very important ingredient in traditional fondue is a white wine. The 2018 Jana Sauvignon Blanc is perfect for this. It only requires one-third of a cup, and that leaves the rest for drinking! 

Christmas Eve is all about chocolate fondue. With lots of tasty morsels to dip in chocolate, we pair this with a splash of 2011 Forte Port as a nightcap after a day of wrapping way too many presents! 

However you enjoy your favorite Scott Harvey wines, we hope you have a beautiful holiday season with good health, laughter, and lots of delicious wine and food offerings! Cheers!

Time Posted: Nov 28, 2019 at 12:40 PM
Scott Harvey
October 25, 2019 | Scott Harvey

Five Wine Myths: Debunked!

There are many common misconceptions about wine that often become unquestioned beliefs. We’re getting to the bottom of five of these fallacies once and for all and addressing some of the most common myths we’ve heard in our 40+ years in the wine industry.

The myth: White wine should be served ice cold

The truth: You may have heard the idea that red wine should be served at room temperature while white wine should be served ice cold. In reality, you'll achieve the best results if both red and white wines are served in between nearly ice cold and room temperature.

If white wine is served too cold, you won't be able to taste the nuances in its flavor. If red wine is served too close to room temperature, it could taste flat. So, when it doubt, chill your wine but ensure it’s not too cold. The proper serving temperatures are 49-55°F for white wine and 62-68°F for red wine.

The myth: Sweet wines are for beginners, not educated palates

The truth: Some of the greatest wines in the world are sweet. Sauternes, Ice Wines, Trockenbeerenauslese (a German wine classification for a rich, full-bodied style of sweet dessert wine) are sweet, but are also immensely flavorful and very age-worthy. 

For example, our Angel Eis Ice Wine is a beautiful example of this style of wine. Grown in Mendocino County, this 36-year-old Riesling vineyard produces small yields of flavorful grapes of this varietal. To create this wine, frozen grapes were pressed and fermented slowly for two months. This well-balanced dessert wine with hints of peaches, pears, and apricots boasts a long, lingering finish that’s a beautiful sunny day sipper, or pairs perfectly with blue cheese and your favorite crostini.

The myth: All wines worth cellaring are red

The truth: Older wines deliver a different spectrum of flavors from what you would taste in a young wine. Tannins keep wine fresh, which is why red wines that age well tend to contain greater amounts of tannins.

However, the sugar found in white wines helps to preserve the wine and prevent deterioration. Therefore, the sweeter the white wine, the better it will age which is why dessert wines (such as our Angel Eis mentioned above), a Riesling, such as our Jana Riesling, vintage Champagne, Sauternes, and even some dry white wines are just as age-worthy as reds. 

In addition to high tannins and sweetness, white wines with a higher acidity level are more likely to last longer because low pH levels prevent any chemical changes that would otherwise break down the wine.

The myth: White wine does not contain sulfites

The truth:
One of the most common things we hear in the tasting room is that an individual only drinks white wine because they’re allergic to sulfites. In reality, white wines actually contain more added sulfur dioxide than reds. Sulfites occur naturally during the fermentation process, so all wines — red, white, and rosé — contain some level of sulfites.

That being said, the amount of sulfites in any bottle of wine is actually quite small. In fact, more sulfites exist in common foods like eggs, raisins, cured meats and cheese, and even ketchup. So, if you don’t have any major sensitivities to these items, you’ll likely be able to consume all of our wines just fine!

Myth: Screw-top wines are inferior to corked wines

The truth: In many years leading up to the present day, screw cap wines were a symbol of a cheaper bottle of wine. But, times are changing and these days, winemakers (including Scott) have come around to the benefits of these once-scorned metal closures. Why, you ask? While cork may be traditional, it can come with its share of headaches including a risk of contamination with trichloroanisole (TCA), also known as cork taint, which is a chemical compound that can leave the wine with a damp, musty smell or mask its flavors all together. 

We hope we’ve helped to ease your mind by debunking these wine myths, and leave you feeling more confident with your wine knowledge so you can share with your friends!

Time Posted: Oct 25, 2019 at 3:05 PM
Scott Harvey
October 10, 2019 | Scott Harvey

The Effects of the PG&E Power Outage

For the last two days while in the apex of harvest PG&E elected to cut power to the whole Shenandoah Valley and Fiddletown wine appellations of Amador County. They also cut power to Napa Valley and Sonoma as well. We produce wine at three different wineries that are located in Amador County, Napa Valley, and Clarksburg. They say it is due to high wind danger. I’m not sure about the rest of the wine-growing regions in northern California, but in Amador County, there has been no wind event to speak of. I would think that PG&E would have the ability to turn on and off different areas depending on the danger in each.

This will cost our winery in revenue and potential wine quality and will probably cost the Northern California wine industry millions of dollars.

  • We have two tasting rooms in Amador County and are part of a co-operative tasting room in Napa.  Since the POS (point of sale) system or cash registers are run through the internet and on electricity we are forced to close the tasting rooms depriving us of badly needed revenue to stay alive. 70% of our total sales are direct to consumer and the tasting rooms are a big part of it. Even if we did open the tasting rooms and took down the sales information on paper to enter later, there are no people out tasting because they have heard everyone else is closed. 50% of a winery’s sales revenue is generated in the fourth quarter of the year. Our tasting rooms are open daily during October, November, and December to take advantage of the needed sales revenues. I find my anger mounting when I look outside on a perfectly claim sunny day and can not open my tasting room due to PG&E shutting off the power.
  • At the apex of harvest, there is a lot of wines in fermenters. The conversion of grape sugar via yeast to carbon dioxide and alcohol is a reaction that creates heat. We have large cooling jackets on out tanks that dissipate the heat and keep the fermentation cool.  When a fermentation gets too hot, bitter-tasting components (phenolics) start to come out of the skins and seeds. This lowers the overall quality of the wines. The cooling system is run on electricity. Luckily, for us, all of the fermentations we have in tanks right now are past the peak period where they are producing high amounts of heat. By leaving the winery doors open the cool night air is enough for us to limp along.
  • Delay of harvest.  We want to pick grapes at their optimum ripeness. Not under ripe and not overripe. Two days ago, we were scheduled to pick Vineyard 1869. One most prized 150-year-old Zinfandel vineyard.  Now we have rescheduled for tomorrow depending on PG&E turning the power back on.  Hopefully, it will not be delayed too much longer.

There needs to be some better answers to this problem than just shutting off the power to all of northern California’s wine regions. Otherwise, I can see the lawsuits flying at PG&E at a time they can hardly afford any more lawsuits. The other answer is to put in a permanent high-powered generator for such occasions. Probably at a cost of $20,000 or more. 

Scott Harvey
CEO and Winemaker

Time Posted: Oct 10, 2019 at 4:21 PM
Jana Harvey
September 25, 2019 | Jana Harvey

The Story Behind Four Labels

Each of our wine labels was carefully and thoughtfully designed, but there are four in particular that stand out amongst the bunch. From their unique stories to equally noteworthy labels, our Tickle Me Pink Rosé, One Last Kiss Red Blend, InZinerator Zinfandel, and Angel Eis Ice Wine have especially fun histories. These are four colorful stories you won't want to miss!

Tickle Me Pink Rosé

The story of this fan-favorite is rather short and sweet, but very serendipitous. We saw the picture in a gallery in Jerome, Arizona, and Scott was not only instantly attached to it but he loved how fun and different it was.

When a shareholder came up with the name for our new Rosé, we knew we had the perfect label for it. We contacted the artist and purchased the rights - the rest is history!

InZinerator Zinfandel

Just like our Rosé, one of our shareholders came up with the name of this wine. Our nephew, Michael, is a graphic designer and we gave him the task of designing something with a superhero theme.

We originally had three different labels of superheroes to choose from, but retailers weren’t quite ready for the comic book-look so we tamed it to the unmistakable “Z”. Fun fact: the state of North Carolina actually outlawed the label because they thought we were trying to sell wine to children!

We were ultimately looking to appeal to millennials, but this wine quickly became a favorite of Scott Harvey fans of all ages.

Angel Eis Ice Wine

Our nephew, Michael, once again had a hand in creating the design for this bottle. He was also the inspiration behind the name because when he sent us his various design ideas, he would provide a title for each one. This particular draft he named “Angel Ice” and we thought the name was perfect.

The first couple of vintages were named Angel Ice, but the Tax and Trade Bureau didn’t approve this name because it wasn’t a true Ice Wine. Scott then changed “Ice” to the German word, “eis”, and it was approved.

The beautiful blue/green color of the bottle is one Scott has always used for his dessert wines, so he kept true to that trend with this wine as well.


One Last Kiss Red Blend

We originally wanted to call this wine “Kiss” but because the band Kiss already has rights to it (fun fact: the band actually sent us a letter about it!), we were ultimately unable to use this moniker.

Scott then wanted to call it “One More Kiss”, but Jana thought “One Last Kiss” was more romantic. Many people felt it sounded a bit sad as being the “Last Kiss”, so we recently updated it to “Just One Last Kiss” so it didn’t sound so final.

The label design was inspired by a group of women that visited us every year from Arizona. When they came one year, Scott planned to have poster boards set up with red lipsticks and had everyone kiss the board. Even their bus driver got into it! Their lips are what you see on this label.


Naming and creating the design of our labels is easily one of the most fun parts of the process, but it’s also equally important to ensure they stand out amongst the countless other options out there in the wine world. We hope we’ve inspired you to share these stories with friends and family the next time you’re sipping on any of your Scott Harvey favorites!


- Jana Harvey

Time Posted: Sep 25, 2019 at 10:47 AM
Scott & Jana Harvey
August 30, 2019 | Scott & Jana Harvey

Steps of Wine Making: Harvest to the Glass

Harvest is upon us! It’s the time of year when your favorite Scott Harvey varietals are being plucked from their vines and crafted into the wines you know and love. This will be Scott’s 46th harvest (we still can’t believe it!) and he hasn’t missed one since 1974. 

The exact steps in the harvesting process will vary in time, technique, and technology based on the grape, but, for the most part, each harvest includes the same basic vine-to-wine steps. Curious how this process works? We’re doing a deep-dive into how your Scott Harvey favorites are made. 

Step 1: Veraison and picking the grapes

The grapes have now been through veraison, and it’s time to pick! This year’s vintage will produce some big differences from region to region within our state. Having started with a wet winter, we’ve had plenty of moisture in the ground to develop and grow a healthy crop. 

Grapes that flowered early, like in the Central and Napa valleys, are ideal in size and have had a successful growing season. Areas that budded late, such as the high elevation regions in Amador County or Lake County, were caught flowering in unfavorable conditions (such as rain or hail)and many of the flowers did not germinate. This gives us what we call “shot berry”, which means these vineyards will produce less than normal. However, the good news is that the resulting wine tends to be more flavorful and extractive.

When it’s time to pick, the grapes are either cut from the vine by hand or picked by machine, depending on the winery. We prefer the grapes to be hand-harvested at night – when they are picked at a temperature that is too warm, the crushing process develops unwanted bitter components and phenolics in the wine. If we receive grapes picked under hot conditions during the day, they are placed in our air-conditioned winery overnight and crushed the next day when they’re cold. Hand harvesting is more labor-intensive, but can offer superior results. At this point in the process, the grapes are still intact with their stems. These will all be removed in the next step.

Step 2: Crush the grapes

No matter how or when the grapes were picked, they all get crushed in some fashion at this step. The de-stemmer, which is a piece of winemaking machinery that does exactly what it says - removes the stems from the clusters and lightly crushes the grapes.

For white wines, once crushed, the white grapes are transferred straight into a press. All of the grapes are pressed to extract the juice and leave behind the grape skins. The pure juice is then transferred into tanks where sediment settles to the bottom of the tank. After a settling period, the juice is then “racked”, which means it’s filtered out of the settling tank into another to ensure all the sediment is gone before fermentation starts.

Similarly, with red wines, the grapes are de-stemmed and lightly crushed. The difference is that these grapes, along with their skins, go straight into a vat to start fermentation on their skins. This is what imparts the red color into red wine; otherwise, red grapes would simply be some form of Rosé wine.

The sooner the clusters are de-stemmed, the less tannic the wine will be. Some winemakers want little-to-no influence of stems, while others feel that some or all stems in the fermentation fill out the wine’s texture and flavor.

Step 3: Ferment the juice into wine

Simply put, fermentation is where the sugar converts into alcohol. To break it down this stage mainly includes:

  • Red and white wines:
    • Yeast is added to the vats so that fermentation can take place
  • Red wines only:
    • Carbon dioxide is released during fermentation which causes the grape skins to rise to the surface. 
    • Winemakers must punch down or pump over the “cap” several times a day to keep the skins in contact with the juice.
    • The grapes are pressed after fermentation is complete. After racking to clarify the wine, the reds will spend several months aging in barrels.

Step 4: Age the wine

As a Winemaker, Scott has many choices at this step but it ultimately depends on the kind of wine he wants to create. Flavors in wine can become more intense due to several of these winemaking choices:

- Aging for several years vs. several months
- Aging in stainless steel vs. oak
- Aging in new oak vs. ‘neutral’ or used barrels
- Aging in American oak barrels vs. French oak barrels
- Aging in various levels of ‘toasted’ barrels (i.e. charred by fire)

When wines are young we taste their primary flavors, like grassiness in Sauvignon Blanc or citrus in Riesling. We may also notice some secondary notes associated with winemaking techniques, like the vanilla flavor from an oak barrel or buttery nuances from malolactic fermentation.

When wines age, we start getting into tertiary notes or flavors that come from development. This could mean young, bold hints of fresh fruit that become gradually more subdued and reminiscent of dried fruit. Other flavors, previously hidden by bold primary notes, come to the forefront such as honey, herbal notes, hay, mushroom, stone, and earth. While the proportion of alcohol, acids, and sugars stay the same, the flavors continue to change over time – which is so fun to watch!

Step 5: Bottle the wine

When Scott feels the wine has reached its full expression in aging, it’s time to bottle the wine for consumption. We tend to age our wines for 18 to 23 months in once or twice used French oak barrels with medium toast. Once the aging process is complete, we make them available to you!

It’s important to remember, though, that wine is a living thing and changes with time in the bottle. Depending on the wine, it can take years to decades for the molecular structure to change. That being said, 99% of the world’s wine does not need cellaring andare actually at their peak the day they are released. 

Whether you decide to enjoy your Scott Harvey wines the day you purchase or a few months or years down the line, there’s no doubt they will be wonderfully expressive, well-balanced, and enjoyable no matter the occasion. Curious about the varietals we craft, or want to pick up some of your favorites? Take a look at our wine portfolio!

Time Posted: Aug 30, 2019 at 2:51 PM

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