Harvest Q&A with Assistant Winemaker David Dockendorf

Winemaker David Dockendorf

Winemaker David Dockendorf

The 2018 harvest is fast approaching and with it comes the busiest time of year at our working winery. To kick it off, we’ve asked our assistant winemaker David Dockendorf about his expectations for this year’s vintage (read our Q&A below). But first, let’s take a look at our not-to-be-missed annual Harvest Celebration on August 11- if you’re attending, you’re in for a treat!

The Martin Ranch Harvest Celebration began as a casual get-together for our small MRW community thirteen years ago but has since budded into a spectacular afternoon fit for a Sunset Magazine cover. With a menu inspired by our bountiful region, members mingle with family-style table service and enjoy the beauty of this special time of year on our vineyard. Executive Chef Carlos Pineda of Gilroy’s 2017 Non-Profit of the Year Rebekah’s Culinary Academy and his team have put together a mouth-watering selection of hors-d'oeuvres, salads, and assorted meat and vegetarian dishes all sourced locally, including veggies and herbs fresh from Thérèse’s organic garden.

This year, our popular dessert auction benefiting the South Bay’s Community Solutions’ domestic violence program will feature temptations made exclusively by our very own MRW staff. Let’s see if we can top last year’s $1,800 donation!

Without further ado, let’s catch up with assistant winemaker David Dockendorf for our very first Vine to Wine Q&A. David has played an integral role on the MRW winemaking team since 2008, and his comprehensive knowledge, friendly face, and passion for the craft never escapes our members and guests. Cheers to the 2018 vintage!

Q & A

Q: David, what has the 2018 growing season been like here at MRW and what are your expectations for the vintage?

A: Overall, the vintage looks good; no signs of mildew and a yield that looks to be average or slightly above average. We had a moderate amount of rain for our area over the winter months combined with a mild spring. The start of summer was unseasonably cool with the heat coming in short bursts and only recently getting hot. That caused a slight delay in bud break and veraison by about a week. The berry size looks nice- not too big so we should get some nice concentrated flavors. Long way to go but so far so good.

Q: Is any of our fruit in the veraison period right now?

A: We have the beginnings of veraison in our Pinot Noir, but none yet in our Cab, Nebbiolo or Merlot. This last heat wave has stopped the plants’ growing cycles and set them on to the ripening phase so I expect to see color change soon.

Q:  As our MRW members and devotees know, we've started organic vineyard practices this year. Do you expect to see an appreciable difference in our fruit right away?

A:  The organic changeover is going well but it takes 3 years of constant practice to be certified organic. We won’t notice big changes right away with regard to the fruit, but we do enjoy the benefits on our environment and sustainability from day one.

Q:  Any other production changes for this year's vintage?

A:  For the first time, we will be experimenting with native yeast fermentation on some of our varietals. Instead of adding commercial yeast, we’ll let the natural yeast on the fruit and in our winery take care of the fermentation. We hope this provides more unique wines and we’re excited to see the results.

Q:  Last but not least David, harvest is a frenetic time for winemakers and crew. What do you enjoy most about this time and how do you celebrate when it's all complete?

A:  I love harvest because it is the one time of year where we actually make wine! Everything else on the to-do list goes away for a couple of months and we can put all of our focus and energy into bringing out the full potential of the beautiful fruit we have and create something memorable. That being said, it is a hectic time with no real breaks in the action. I signal the end of harvest when the last wine has completed secondary fermentation - generally middle to late November. I usually celebrate with a cold beer or two - or three - and a belly full of turkey during Thanksgiving. The holidays feel like a big reward for a lot of hard work and I enjoy them to the fullest!