A Day at CIRQ Estate Harvest 2021

‘Tis the harvesting season! This past October, I had the pleasure of joining CIRQ Estate in harvesting the 2021 vintage. Wine harvesting, really when they make the wine is such a crucial step in the wine-making process and I love getting to be a part of the process. CIRQ Estate launched in 2009 and makes delicious wines from Russian River Valley’s most exceptional sites superbly blending the highest quality fruit from the Valley’s prime vineyards.

Michael Browne, Winemaker (who you wine lovers know from his first Winery Kosta Browne) and Proprietor of CIRQ Estate goal’s is to craft the finest Pinot Noir possible from exceptional vineyards from our backyard- the ultimate expression of this magical region.

Read more about Michael in my Interview with Legendary Michael Browne of CIRQ Estate Wines.

CIRQ Michael Browne

After that, make sure to read my Interview with Winemaker Erica Stancliff of Trombetta Wines, CIRQ (Eunologist), Stressed Vines & more.

What a beautiful day this was! The vast lands of CIRQ vineyards in the Russian River Valley are just the prettiest views.

These grapes are ready to be made into wine! So exciting being a part of the 2021 harvest at CIRQ Estate. A huge thanks to Michael, Jeremiah, Erica and the team for inviting me to help out and learn from you all during this day at harvest.

To start the harvesting, Cellar Master Israel taught me how to do a Pinot Noir Punch Down. In fermentation, the grape skins and solids rise to the surface due to the carbon dioxide gas caused by the process. Punch down is the term winemakers use for breaking up a cap of skins and solids that forms over fermenting red wine. The Punch Down process also involves a tricky remote, that I got to try out here!

This punch-down process is done after the cold soak that takes place for three days. First, a pump-over is done which brings juice from the bottom to the top and they spread the wine from the bottom to avoid. After the 3 days, they do the inoculation and add yeast to start the fermentation.  

After adding yeast, the punch down technique is done twice a day at 8 am and around 3:30/4:30 for approximately 11 or 12 days. The punch down I saw may be the last one as it is almost dry and there is no more sugar to extract. These specific grapes came in about 10 days ago!

After the punch down it was then time to drain the tank!

This right here is free-run juice that flows freely from freshly picked grapes before they are pressed. Then the extra skin gets pressed into pressed fruit which is then separated into barrels. Excess grapes get strained and filtered back in to make sure that all grapes are extracted.

Here we are draining the tank with Assistant Winemaker Jeremiah.

Winemaker Jeremiah made sure the juice was tasting good! It was all moving along smoothly. He said at this point of something is wrong you’ll taste it in the wine so the tasting is a crucial part as you make the wine.

After draining the tank, it was time to dig out the remains of the grapes, then press. It is important to not wait more than 24 hours after you empty the tank. These grapes are then pressed and composited. Shoveling out this wine fills about 4 barrels!

Something to keep in mind is how much CLEANING goes into Winemaking. It seemed as if every step we did had a cleaning step first, then we did the winemaking task, then we cleaned and sanitized after. It’s crucial for high-quality wines and those of you who’ve tasted CIRQ & CHEV Wines know how stunning they are so each one of thmany many steps ensures that high quality and stunning flavors.

Tasting some CHEV Chardonnay with Asst. Winemaker Jeremiah from the concrete egg.

Here I am with Sylvie, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at CIRQ & CHEV and Enologist Erica Stancliff. It’s always so fun to reconnect with pals in the Industry. I’ve known both of these ladies for a few years now and Sylvie was at Pinots & Plaid pouring CIRQ & CHEV. I’ve had the pleasure of doing a few Instagram Lives with Erica for Trombetta Wines (another label she’s the Winemaker for).

After an educational day at CIRQ Wines Harvest, I got to enjoy a lovely glass of CIRQ Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley with lunch. I also got to taste CHEV wines, Michael Browne’s new endeavor. The Pinot Noir from Oregon is multi-dimensional and layered with crunchy red fruits- a burst of fresh raspberry, cranberry, and pomegranate. This Oregon Pinot Noir is new for CHEV so this was my first time tasting it and I loved it!

I also got to enjoy this delightful current vintage offered by CIRQ Wines. The 2018 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is Rich and round with a satin, velvety texture. Mouthwatering and juicy throughout with fine and delicate tannin, and a resounding finish.

Thank you to the CIRQ Estate team for letting me get a behind-the-scenes look at the winemaking process. I learned so much and cannot wait to try the 2021 vintage soon. I’ll see you at Harvest 2022 next (I hope).

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