As I anticipate harvest at Trione Vineyards & Winery, I picture how we’d get elbows (and knees)-deep in fruit.
As I anticipate harvest at Trione Vineyards & Winery, I picture how we’d get elbows (and knees)-deep in fruit. “Here we go team!” are the words that came out of everyone’s mouth as the trucks drove up with Russian River Pinot Noir from our River Road Ranch. The guys from the ranch stepped out of the truck with smiles on their faces as we started to process the first red fruit for our still wines (we pick some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir back in mid-August for a small lot of a sparkling brut).
Vineyard operations manager Kris Hicks works very closely with winemaker Scot Covington to ensure the best fruit is coming to Trione. The winery maintains 650 acres of vineyards, and only 2 to 3 percent are used for Trione wines. This makes for an exciting job for Scot. He literally cherry-picks small blocks on our ranches with Kris and decides what he would like to use from vintage to vintage.
Everyone is excited when the red berries come in because we all belly-up to the sorting table to pick through the fruit after it goes through the destemmer. We are looking for bigger stems that did not come off, bugs, leaves and anything else that does not belong. Working on the sorting table is fun — the Trione family comes out and the whole company works together — and we invite club members to join us.
A Family Affair
Local legacy Henry Trione started the family business more than 40 years ago. In 2005, Denise, my boss and the operations director, her dad (Mark) and uncle (Vic) decided to get back into winemaking. During harvest, club members and guests are often greeted by the Trione family: Mark, Cathy, Vic, Henry, Denise and even little Georgia (Denise and Kris’ daughter: 4th generation) and invited to witness the harvest action and taste fruit off the truck, if it’s available.
Family-owned may seem tough at times because there can be many different opinions about the way things should be done, but where I work, we love working for a family. We feel like we are a part of it and so do our guests. During harvest, the joy is seen on everyone’s faces and we are reminded what the wine business is about: making people happy and having fun doing it.
In the fall, my hospitality team and I have opportunities to “get dirty” in the cellar. After the grapes are sorted and the wines are fermented, the tanks are drained and the pomace must be dug out. One year our winemaker decided to turn a difficult task into a fun and educational activity: digging out a tank. We all shared in the dirty, tough job and turned it into a competition: Who could dig out the tank the fastest?
Having been in the wine business for 13 years, I had never carried a hose around the cellar, let alone dug out a tank of Cabernet Sauvignon, until Trione. I thought I knew what I was in for but it wasn’t until I jumped in and felt pomace between my toes and sank into the tank until the cap came up to my knees that I realized this was going to be hard. With a heavy plastic shovel, I carved myself out a starting point and began scooping the pomace out through the small tank door, about a foot and a half in diameter.
I could hear my co-worker Claire yelling out my time, and my heart began to race as I hustled to get through it. Between the weight of the soaking wet, slippery fruit and the heavy fumes, my body was tired, and I was only at minute five. With encouragement from my co-workers, I finished extracting 6 tons of Cabernet pomace in just over 18 minutes, making me the fastest girl that year. Exhaustion took over my entire body after I was finished and, while it was exciting, I was very happy to go back to my job in sales and marketing. The Triones believe in education, so those who work for the company are taught as much as we can soak in. It’s a wonderful hands-on experience; and during harvest, the more hands-on-deck, the better.
See for Yourself
I love when our guests want to experience more “behind the scenes” action on their vacations or trips to the wine country. Some people have never seen a basket press or open-top fermentation tank; and if it’s not too busy, we can bring them into the cellar, let them walk up onto the catwalk and feel the cap (the part of the fruit that firms up at the top of the tank and is pressed down daily to extract color into the juice) inside the tank. Here they really see where the wine process starts, and we enjoy sharing our passion for wine with them.
Longtime local members Marilyn and Manuel have had the opportunity to get hands-on experience making wine since vintage 2011. New York City Club members Tony and Shawn live for these special experiences and are members at more than 20 wineries. They were lucky enough to stumble into the winery the day before fruit was scheduled to come in one year. Our winemaker asked if they’d like to come back and be put to work, and they agreed. Laughs were shared during the 7-hour workday; and when a lizard was found in a bunch of grapes, everyone squirmed.
Whether it’s sorting grapes at the beginning of harvest, seeing the process of punch-downs, or tasting samples of the wines from the barrel with Scot as the season winds down, we are always happy to share the love. There is something about knowing where the wine first started and how the grapes were processed that makes the finished wine taste so much better. The experience connects us to the product, and we remember those feelings. Harvest time creates memories, and we at Trione want to share those with our fellow wine lovers and guests. SD