We wrapped up the 2019 vintage at The Storm Cellar just over a month ago, and it is proving to be an exceptional one!! This year has been our most challenging yet – not only with the weather – but also with launching our wines for the first time, getting our name out there, and balancing the sales life with the vineyard life. We hosted two dinners in the vineyard, co-hosted six wine dinners with the Colorado FIVE culinary team, attended seven wine festivals, threw eight pop-up tasting room events at the South Pearl Street Farmers Market, and made weekly sales calls and tasting appointments across the state.
It’s a lot, especially when you see it typed out. We’d focus on one part of the state one week, attending a festival or market there, taste wines with several accounts, and then turn around the following week to drop off the wines that were ordered earlier. We are still recovering from the miles we clocked, but we are truly grateful for our early-on supporters of our wines.
Without those early and ongoing supporters, we’d be in a much different situation.
The Frost Event
The 2019 vintage had a rather late start, due to a cool, wet, cloudy spring. The vines stayed about two weeks behind in development all the way up until harvest. Our Riesling grapes could have stayed on the vines a little longer, but an early frost event forced us to pick our entire vineyard in just over a week’s time. When a “killing frost” occurs, you have a limited amount of time, where you can pick the grapes; otherwise, if you wait too long, the bunches can actually fall from the vine because the stem is basically dead.
Bringing in the Grapes
We worked backwards, knowing the last possible date we’d be able to harvest, and we picked the most-ripe grapes first, letting the Riesling linger as long as we could, since the grapes needed to decrease their acid levels and get as much warm sunshine on the grapes as possible, to increase their sugar levels. We pushed the Riesling harvest back as much as we could, and we picked the last of the grapes by headlamp and classic rock on a Sunday night.
Getting hands to actually pick the grapes proved quite challenging. Since almost every farmer was busy bringing in their crops that same week, skilled workers were already committed. Through phone calls, emails, Facebook message boards (thanks, Jim Brett, for putting out the call), and word of mouth, we were able to get a small, skilled crew, along with friends from town and from as far away as Grand Junction and Denver.
We made it!!
For perspective, we harvested all of our grapes last year over the course of six weeks. This year, we pulled in everything in eight days. We’d pick in the early morning, press that afternoon, clean up all of the equipment, get the juice into tank, and prepare to do the very same thing the following day. There wasn’t time to reflect or catch up or rest.
We did make a great decision in the middle of the weather challenges – we made a last-minute purchase on some St. Vincent grapes for a rosé. We know – what’s St. Vincent?? That grape deserves its own blog post. Two of our Pinot Noir agreements fell through, and we really wanted to make a rosé, so we are experimenting with making rosé from these cold-hardy and new-to-us grapes. So far, the resulting wine is vibrantly hued and is showing delicious notes of cranberry, raspberry, and those red, cherry Starburst candies.
Sometimes a temporary disappointment can provide a moment for a creative and daring spark!
A Surprise Guest and an Incredible Story
Just before our final press load, Lettie Teague, wine columnist at The Wall Street Journal, hung out with us for two days. We showed her around the West Elks AVA and the Grand Valley AVA, while we balanced receiving and pressing Roussanne grapes, monitoring our developing fermentations, and fulfilling orders. She was there to learn more about farming grapes in high-elevation, “fringe” growing regions. We took her to a few requested wineries and to our favorite North Fork Valley farms, and we tasted her through our 2018 lineup.
You never know how an interview or tasting experience will be represented in print, but both of us had tears in our eyes, while we read Lettie’s column, which was also a cover story, printed on November 16th, in the WSJ‘s Off Duty weekend edition. You can read our beautifully told story via this link, and catch our 2018 Dry Riesling among the 20 wines featured as must-buys for Thanksgiving, all from up-and-coming wine regions around the country! We’re still freaking out about seeing our story in The Wall Street Journal.
We are truly grateful this Thanksgiving and are so appreciative of your support – for sharing our wines with friends, for spreading the word about our project, and for letting us know what you’re enjoying with our wines!
If you’re on the Front Range, mark your calendars for the holiday markets we’ll be attending, where you can taste our wines and purchase some last-minute wine gifts. Get the details here!
Here’s to an exceptional 2019 vintage with us at The Storm Cellar!!
Jayme, Steve, and The Storm Cellar Team
And a HUGE thanks goes to Jeff Fierberg of Sora Digital for capturing that last harvest day so gorgeously and picking grapes, too, during the process. Have you watched the video he made that day? Watch it here and get your fix of breathtaking, sweeping drone shots of our little piece of heaven here on the Western Slope in the fall.