Update from Kirby Estate Vineyard: Embracing the 2024 Vintage

As we step into the promising beginning of the 2024 vintage, we must reflect on a fruitful 2023 season, marked by the meticulous hand-harvesting of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Merlot for vinification under our Kirby Estate label.

Additionally, the Gamay Noir was hand harvested for selected wineries, notably Thomas Bachelder, showcasing our dedication to quality and craftsmanship.

The Art of Hand-Harvesting at Kirby Estate

We hand harvest fruit (versus machine harvest) at Kirby Estate for several reasons.  A typical harvest commences early in the morning once dew has dried off the berries and a picking crew has assembled in the vineyard – typically 10-20 people.  Glen Elgin – our vineyard manager, stages baskets and/or tote bins along the rows which are filled with grape clusters (typically +/- 10 kg per basket) which are stacked neatly on skids.  These are immediately lifted onto the back of the flatbed truck using a skid steer and transported to the awaiting winery.  There are many moving parts requiring clear and concise communication between the vineyard and the winery to ensure that all logistics are successful, and grapes arrive as anticipated.

Why Hand-Harvesting?

Experienced labour is a key component to ensuring an efficient and thorough hand sort in the vineyard and gentle handling of the grape clusters.  Clusters showing signs of distress from pests or uneven ripeness are discarded at this stage.  Baskets of limited size ensure that the fruit is preserved for transport without any partial crushing and premature oxidation.  This enables the fruit to be properly passed over the sorting table at the winery.  This also enables the winemaker to control the fermentation and pressing (rate and pressure) of either whole cluster or de-stemmed berries.

Hand picking allows for the harvest in very tight corners of the vineyard and on slopes that are not conducive to machine harvesters.  It also reduces the compaction of the underlying soils.  

While more efficient at times, machine harvesting can expedite the harvesting of a large field in a much shorter time frame and these machines are also used extensively for harvesting frozen berries at nighttime for ice wine.  They are typically fitted out with optical sorters and other accoutrements that increase efficiency and are used extensively in large scale operations.  They pick berries using spiral agitator rods that gently shake the vines and result in the berries being dropped into a bin/conveyor system and further into 2 larger storage bins at the rear of the machine.  These bins are periodically mechanically transferred into hydraulically operated stainless steel transfer trailers and lastly transferred into larger bins atop waiting flatbed trailers for shipment to the winery.

From Harvest to Barrel: The Journey of the 2023 Vintage

Fermentation and the initial phase of winemaking for the 2023 vintage has finished, and the wine is slowly aging in oak barrels.  We have turned our sights to the new 2024 vintage.  In the past week we have completed pruning of the vines.  Weather has figured prominently as unseasonably warm and cold cycles have resulted in earlier sap run in the vines.  This has made the vine buds slightly more vulnerable to an extreme cold event.  We are holding our breath that such an event does not occur.  

From Harvest to Barrel: The Journey of the 2023 Vintage

We will be bottling the 2022 Vintage merlot and chardonnay in early May this year.   A little later, we will put our 2022 Vintage traditional method pinot blanc,  blanc-de-blanc to bottle where it will reside on the leis for the next several years.  We are excited to be making our first traditional method sparkler.

Join Us on Our Journey

As Kirby Estate Vineyard continues to grow and innovate, we invite you to share in our journey and experience the passion behind every bottle. Stay tuned for more updates and discover the unique character and quality of our hand-harvested wines.