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Countdown to Harvest with Greg La Follette

Ancient Oak Cellars Winemaker Greg La Follette

Ancient Oak Cellars Winemaker Greg La Follette

You know it’s a chancy business when our winemaker is asked what he’s been excited to see in the vineyard this year, and he responds, “remarkably even and temperate” weather, with most of the growing season being “downright moderate!”  That exclamation point was part of the quote, in case you were wondering.  Of course, there is good reason to be excited about the weather, as Greg explains:

“We decided to take advantage of the long-term forecast for cool weather and push picking back, giving some fruit which still has slightly tougher tannins time to catch up with more developed clusters.  The slightly-lagging fruit is usually on shoots carrying 2 clusters.  If we were to have a heat spike we might have had to drop more fruit but mother nature is being generous to us this year.”

A heat spike would force us to begin harvesting, since the sugar levels are right on target currently, but we appreciate the time to let the grapes develop more fully without much more sugar.  Greg and Ken both agree that the lab results aren’t everything and some subjective taste tests are necessary — or perhaps they just like eating grapes straight from the vine.


We expect to start harvesting next week, so right now we’re doing some long-term thinking before all of us get sucked into the maelstrom.  In the cellar, we compare notes with Greg’s other winery, Alquimista; Greg and Patrick are busy planning this year’s alchemy with their harvest intern Malia van der Kamp, who was raised on the renowned van der Kamp vineyard.  For us, the fun project is a potential small trial of carbonic maceration — we would ferment some fruit whole-cluster rather than destemmed, turning each berry into an individual fermentation vessel.  Greg has used the technique often in the past, and is looking forward to applying it to our wines.


Later on in the timeline, there are some barrels Greg is particularly excited about…and we think his wife Mara should maybe have some concerns.  He described the “downright sexy quality” of Tremeaux barrels: “It is like an already terrific-looking person getting dressed up in something that really shows off the beauty without being blatant about it.”  Phoenix barrels, meanwhile, he described as being “very steady performers, not show-offs but they get the job done and complement the fruit without distraction.  This is the kind of barrel you want to bring home for your mother to meet!”


Finally, Greg had two harvest memories to share on the eve of the season, one serene and the other, well, not as much:

“The moon setting over Sonoma Mountain is hard to beat for sheer beauty.  Getting into a grape fight with two of my young daughters while shoveling out a fermentor provided lasting memories of hilarity, including the obligatory hosing down of the dad and sisters by the oldest brother.  I think he got the real last laugh!”

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2 Responses to “Countdown to Harvest with Greg La Follette”

  1. Drew Goin says:

    Thank you for the informative, as well as heart-warming, preview of the 2016 harvest at Ancient Oak! I am excited about the collaboration between y’all and the legendary talent of Mr LaFollette. I am primarily a Zinfandel lover, and I see great things in the future for your unique vineyard!

    Best wishes,
    Drew Goin

  2. mjms47 says:

    We’re so glad you enjoyed the blog. Have you tried our Pagnano Zin? We’ve made some lovely wines from that vineyard, and the 2014 Pagnano (the first vineyard designate Zin made by Greg) will be coming out before too long. It will be available primarily to our wine club, and of course we would love to have you join — but otherwise, keep an eye out for it!

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