There’s a palpable sense of anticipation in the air here in Sonoma County. The end of summer may be approaching, but it is just the beginning of the most exhilarating season in wine country. Harvest is about to begin.
This year, there’s even more excitement than usual for our team, as the 2023 harvest marks a decade of exceptional wines that all began with our 2013 Raeburn Chardonnay. We continue to craft wines with a conscience, combining sustainable winemaking practices and a passionate commitment to quality to offer our elegant, expressive Raeburn line, and we are enthusiastic about the potential of the 2023 vintage. Learn more about how our next releases go from vine to bottle.
Sharing the Energy of Harvest in the Russian River Valley
Every glass of wine begins in the vineyard, with grapes from each year’s vintage growing and ripening throughout the spring and summer. Harvest marks the beginning of the transformation of the fruit into wine. Here in our cool-climate growing area, which benefits from the combination of foggy mornings and warm afternoons, harvest typically kicks off in late August. The timing is critical as it directly influences the final characteristics and quality of the wine.
White wine varieties, like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, ripen earlier, followed by Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. In a typical year, harvest can extend into early October, depending on weather conditions. This year was very cool and wet at the start to the growing season, and grapes matured slowly, which leads to fantastic flavor development. A spike of heat the past few weeks has come at an ideal time, allowing grapes to ripen fully. We anticipate the 2023 vintage will be of exceptional quality.
Our winemakers are now sampling grapes frequently, tasting for flavor development, and testing sugar content. We seek grapes with the essential balance between vibrant acidity, lush flavor and delicate aromatics to craft our balanced, vibrant wines. Picking in the pre-dawn early morning hours when temperatures are cooler helps preserve the grape’s freshness and maintain ideal brix, or sugar levels, at 24° to 24.5°. The journey continues as we usher the grapes into the winery, ready to embark on the vinification process.
Once the grapes go from the vineyards to the winery, they enter the next crucial phase: crush. The term “crushing” can be misleading regarding high-quality white grape varieties. The goal isn’t to forcefully break the grape skins and seeds but to gently press and release the juice. Delicate handling throughout helps preserve the essence of the vineyard.
After the juice is extracted, it’s time for fermentation, the magical transformation where yeast converts sugars in the juice into alcohol. Our Raeburn Chardonnays are 100% barrel fermented and aged for nine months sur lie. A harmonious duet of French and Hungarian oak barrels (50% new) imparts subtle complexities to the wine. The final touch is the addition of malolactic fermentation (80%), which further enriches the character and texture. The result is a wine that captures the grape’s unique characteristics and reflects the vineyard’s nuances.
These Chardonnay wines are at the heart of Raeburn’s winemaking journey over the last decade. Handcrafted in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, our Chardonnay is a testament to the artistry of winemaking. This timeless varietal embodies the balance of flavors and the essence of the terroir in which it is grown. Our Chardonnays reflect the Russian River Valley’s unique microclimate and the wines are expressive and complex. Each glass offers notes of orchard fruits, such as succulent pear and Gravenstein apples, with hints of vanilla and a touch of oak for a rich, lush finish.
From the moment of harvest to the gentle crush and the careful fermentation, every step in crafting our exquisite Chardonnay wines is a tribute to craftsmanship. The process demands meticulous attention to detail, a deep understanding of the grape’s potential, and a commitment to preserving its intrinsic character.
To Excellence and the Next 10 Years
We are proud to commemorate the culmination of a decade of craftsmanship, dedication, and profound respect for the land. Raeburn Winery’s 10th harvest is a testimony to the harmony between the vineyards and our winemakers. We look ahead with a renewed sense of responsibility to sustainability, innovation, and the pursuit of excellence. With every bottle that carries the Raeburn name, we share a piece of our journey, a tribute to nature’s bounty and human ingenuity. As we toast our 10th harvest, we celebrate our team, our community, and all those who have savored a glass of Raeburn Wines.