gmhTODAY Fall 2021 October-December 2021 | Page 58
Eight Facts on ...
How Wines Go From Grapes to Glass
By Stacy Giannini , Marketing Director , Wineries of Santa Clara Valley , and Cindy Adams , Sommelier / Wine Educator at Calerrain Winery in Gilroy
Santa Clara Valley ’ s annual wine grape harvest is underway , and wineries across the county are humming with activity as they transform the grapes into wine . Despite this year ’ s challenges , vintners are pleased with the quality of the 2021 vintage . As a tribute to this special time , we proudly present eight lesser-known facts about California ’ s wine grape harvest .
1California harvest is largest in the U . S .: California is the world ’ s fourth-largest producer of wine , with approximately 427,000 acres of planted grapes . The state produces more than 80 percent of U . S . wine , and more than 90 percent of all that wine is made in a Certified California Sustainable winery . The Santa Clara Valley American viticultural area ( AVA ), covers approximately 1,500 acres of vines , from Saratoga to Gilroy .
5Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are the state ’ s top grapes : Chardonnay is the number one grape by tons harvested in California , followed by Cabernet Sauvignon . In the Santa Clara Valley , Rhone varietals such as Grenache , Syrah , and Mourvedre , along with Petite Sirah and Zinfandel . Santa Clara Valley also produces many other varietals , such as Merlot , Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon .
2Seeds hold the clues : Along with measuring the fruit ’ s sugar , acidity and pH levels , California winemakers continually taste the grapes , making sure to chew the seeds in the days leading up to harvest . That ’ s because as grapes mature , their seeds turn brown and become less bitter . By chewing the seeds , winemakers can tell when the grapes have reached perfect ripeness .
3Sparkling wines go first : Harvesting early — typically in late July or early August — helps the state ’ s wineries maintain refreshing acidity in their sparkling wines . While just about any grape variety can be used to make sparkling wine , Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the most common choices .
6Wine color : It ’ s not the flesh of the grapes that determines the color , it ’ s the skin . Skin contact when making wine is called “ maceration ” and the process extracts color and fruit flavor from the skins without any bitter tannins . Think of it like making a cup of tea--leaving a tea bag in your cup affects the color and flavor .
4The grapes come in after dark . Wineries typically harvest between midnight and early morning because the cooler night temperatures help concentrate and preserve the fresh fruit aromas and flavors and stabilize sugar levels . Night harvesting also saves energy by eliminating the need to cool down the grapes after they have been picked , and it provides more comfortable working conditions for vineyard crews .
7118 + grape varieties harvested : The state ’ s diverse climate and soils provide a hospitable home for dozens of wine grape varieties from Albariño to Zinfandel . Lesser known varietals harvested in the Santa Clara Valley include Carignane , Sangiovese and one of only two existing California plantings of Grignolino .
8What ’ s in a ton ? On average , one ton of wine grapes produces about 63 cases of wine , or 756 ( 750 ml ) bottles