1 on the vine.jpg
Caylee Betts, Betts & Co.
Fruit on the vine prepares to meet its maker
Washington's winemakers have seen some hard harvests of late, but 2012

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Washington Winemakers are Crushing Big on Harvest 2012

1 on the vine.jpg
Caylee Betts, Betts & Co.
Fruit on the vine prepares to meet its maker
Washington's winemakers have seen some hard harvests of late, but 2012 is shaping up to be a banner year. With a gentle Spring, sunny Summer, and Fall's weather remaining relatively mild, the vines are putting out plush clusters of juicy fruit and this year, there's plenty to go around. The beauty of the season inspired a change in our usual format -- instead of interviewing makers of fine wine, we're shooting the process itself. You can almost smell the goodness of this special vintage.

See also:

Jackpot!: Michelle Adams and Michelle Giannunzio of Bacon & Eggs

Weaving a Wine Sweater of a Story with Cadaretta Winemaker Brian Rudin

Washington Wine's Salt of the Earth: Rick Small of Woodward Canyon

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Caylee Betts, Betts & Co.
Fresh off the truck, a half-ton bin of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes begins its journey from vine to wine. Most winemakers favor grapes picked in the early morning so they retain the coolness of the night.

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Trey Busch
There are a variety of ways to clean, de-stem, and crush grapes -- including the good, old fashioned foot stomp. At Sleight of Hand Cellars, winemaker Trey Busch and his family put some knee grease into it.

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Crushed grapes are transferred to fermentation tanks where yeasts are added to get the process going. At Sleight of Hand Cellars nine tons of Red Mountain Merlot prepare to take the heat in a steel tank.

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Fermentation is well underway in this bubbling oak tank containing two tons of Summit View Malbec. Yeast eating the sugars create heat and you can actually hear the sounds of fermentation taking place.

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Once the grapes come trucking in, there is little sleep for harvest crews -- sometimes working 12-16 hours a day, seven days a week. A bit of relief comes in the form of a hearty mobile meal served by Washington wine country's mobile master, Andrae Bopp and the crew at Andrae's Kitchen.

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During harvest, Andrae's Kitchen rolls to various wineries to feed hungry workers as well as to quell the buzz in tasting room visitors. This harvest season tomatoes are coming in late on the vine and a gorgeous Margherita flatbread shows off their punchy color and flavor.

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Caylee Betts, Betts & Co.
Once fermentation is on, the grapes are "punched down" in a far more precarious form of the art known in most kitchens as "stirring". Balboa Winery's Tom Glase walks this fine line over and over again above his steel fermentation tanks.

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Caylee Betts, Betts & Co.
At Balboa, once initial fermentation is complete the tanks of grapes are then poured into a press where the grapes are rolled and pressed and resulting juice is pumped into barrels.

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Once wine is in the barrel, the real fun begins -- tasting the juice! At Artifex, a Walla Walla wine production facility, this crew of winemakers is obviously hard at work.

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Foundry Vineyards winemaker Ali Mayfield drains Malbec from the tank for a taste test. At this point, the juice still tastes a little like "juice" but is beginning to develop the flavors of its endpoint wine.

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The taste test really is in the numbers. Tasting different batches of wines, with different "brix" (sugar levels) and yeasts, as they develop helps winemakers keep a close eye on the prize.

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Caylee Betts, Betts & Co.
Once the grapes have been crushed and their juice is in tank or barrel, many winemakers with estate vineyards simply recycle the skins and stems by composting. Here winemaker Tom Glase ends our photo documentary of Harvest 2012 -- by putting it all back where it began. Salut! to what is sure to be a fine vintage for Washington wine.

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