September 21, 2020 – Harvest kicked off at Melka Estates, located in Saint Helena, the heart of Napa Valley, on August 17. Below are a few words from Co-Proprietor and Winemaker Cherie Melka on progress to date.
“Harvest for Melka Estates began on August 17, 2020, with Chardonnay from Mekerra Vineyard in Knights Valley in Sonoma County. Ironically, this was the day the storms hit California, and lightning strikes started multiple devastating fires. Thankfully, the vineyard sits at very high elevation and was not in any close proximity to any active fires. Our Chardonnay is barrel fermented and, after 21 days, has almost completed its fermentation. Daily stirring of the barrels will continue, but we do not allow malolactic fermentation to happen so that the wines retain vibrancy and freshness.
Next to harvest was our Sauvignon Blanc, also from our estate Mekerra Vineyard. We typically do two to three different picks in the vineyard so that we have varying levels of acidity and sugar. After pressing, we put the juice into barrel for fermentation, and each barrel becomes its own lot. We let some barrels start with native or indigenous yeast, and we inoculate others with commercial yeasts, selecting on average 4-5 different species. This year, we did only two picks from the vineyard (8/26 & 9/1), and all eleven barrels are fermenting nicely with the first pick almost at zero Brix.
We picked the first red fruit for Melka Estates on September 8 –Merlot from the Jumping Goat Vineyard located on the eastern side of Saint Helena at the base of the Mayacamas. Though only a small amount, it marked the beginning of a less stressful harvest than how it has started. Cabernet Sauvignon from Jumping Goat Vineyard arrived on September 16.
As of now, the barrels are tasting and smelling free of smoke while we wait for test results to confirm our sensory evaluations. While we wait, it appears that this harvest has seen positive numbers not only from mountainous areas but also valley floor. The smoke lingered well into September, so the quality will be determined based largely on harvest dates. Melka Estates has decided to harvest significantly less vineyards than we were prepared to as we feel the quality is not going to be to our standards.
In the meantime, our tradition at the winery is for our team to enjoy breakfast and lunch, and plenty of snacks and fruit throughout the day so that we can all focus on the winemaking. Our commitment is to provide a safe and stress-free work environment, which we hope translates to happy fermenters and great resultant wine. This is a philosophy that Philippe and I learned in France – when the vineyard and cellar crew are happy, the wine made from that harvest is usually fabulous!” — Cherie Melka