Group of workers holding harvest bins full of grapes



Harvest has begun at J Vineyards and Winery, heralding the start of “crush” and our favorite time of year. After a favorable growing season, Pinot Noir from our estate vineyards is destined for sparkling wine production. At J, we use the traditional Champagne grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.


Grape harvest is a matter of expertise and awareness. Grapes for sparkling are picked early – one could even call them ‘underripe’ – and are low in sugar in order to maintain acidity and structure in the finished wine. At harvest time, winemaker Nicole Hitchcock is in our vineyards daily, examining grapes and tasting them for flavor. She already has an idea of the grape’s profile, even in its early stage of maturity. At the same time, Nicole’s team members are taking grape samples back to the winery to analyze their sugar, pH and acidity content.

Grapes being held over vineyard rows

Grapes being loaded into a machine

Stacks of bins on a a truck


Once delivered to the winery, the fruit is very gently pressed in our Coquard press to effortlessly extract the juice at low pressure. The press is then drained, and the juice is fermented in stainless steel, keeping each vineyard and block within the vineyard separate. Though the juice may taste sour, Nicole and her winemaking team can already identify the delicate aromas and flavors – think notes of jasmine, citrus, red berries or golden apple – that can be found in the finished wine.

This initial fermentation produces our base wine. Dry with no discernable sweetness and low in alcohol, the base wine is high in acidity. Next, the wine is bottled, and Nicole adds the dosage in preparation for the second fermentation that occurs in the bottle. Sparkling wine’s lively acidity adds structure and makes it an excellent match for food.

Freshly picked grapes

To learn more about how sparkling wine is made, check out Nicole’s blog,
A Quick Guide to Traditional Method Sparkling Wine.


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