Getting ready for harvest at Mountford Estate in Waipara, New Zealand

I have always wanted to work harvest and learn about the winemaking process hands-on.  I finally got the chance when my friend and winemaker CP Lin of Mountford Estate invited me to come to Waipara, New Zealand for the 2012 harvest.

Mountford Estate is owned by Kathryn Ryan and Kees Zeestraten, a wonderful couple who bought the property in 2007.  With 10 planted hectares (approximately 25 acres), Mountford Estate grows Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Muscat.  Producing 4500 cases of wine, they produce 5 Pinot Noirs (3 single vineyard), 1 Chardonnay, 1 Riesling and a single vineyard Alsatian blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Muscat).

As I only have three weeks here in New Zealand, I thought that if I arrived at the very end of March, I would be here just in time for harvest. However, due to an unusual summer and alot of rain, harvest has been delayed a couple of weeks.  But, since I arrived, despite a little rain, it has been beautifully sunny and it looks like we are going to start picking just after Easter.

In the meantime, we have not been sitting around eating and drinking (well, we have a bit) and waiting for the grapes to ripen.  We have been very busy getting ready for harvest. Here it a bit of what we have been doing the past week since I arrived to get ready.

Winemaker CP Lin walked thru the vineyards with the harvest team to check on the ripeness of the grapes. The harvest team consists of myself, Sarah Williams, Matias Di Bernardo Amato, Hiro Yamazaki and Monique Vongehr.


As Mountford typically does whole cluster pressing with the Pinot Noir, most of the sorting happens in the vineyard and not in the winery.

We spent many days removing green berries and berries that were harmed by hail from the Pinot Noir bunches.


Due to the rain, some botrytis (noble rot) had begun to form in the Chardonnay grapes so we spent time removing these grapes. Here is a photo of Chardonnay grapes affected by botrytis and a clean cluster.


In order to get ready for the impending grape picking, we (the harvest team) spent Easter Sunday preparing the winery. We first had to pull the fermenters out of storage.


We then used a pressurized power wash with 100 degree water to wash out the fermenters.


We also power washed the picking bins (400 to be exact) which were then dipped in a sulfite solution (water and sulfer) to kill off any bacteria.


The destemmer was cleaned as well, using caustic (a base) to remove the tartrates (crystals formed by acids).


With everything clean and ready to go, we are ready to start picking some Pinot Noir first thing tomorrow.


Stay tuned for updates on harvest 2012 at Mountford Estate in Waipara, New Zealand.