Understanding Harvest with Ryan Selby from Robibero Family Vineyards

by | Sep 1, 2016

In continuing with my interviews with winery owners and winemakers this takes us to Robibero Family Vineyards in New Paltz, NY and the spotlight is on Ryan Selby.

1. What does Harvest mean to you?

Harvest to me means its the moment the Grapes are optimal and worthy for making wine. Its a celebration of the hard work throughout the growing season and now the transition from working in the vineyard to shifting the focus into the cellar.

2. What are the factors in knowing when its the right time to pick the grapes?

Some of the factors in know ing when to pick the grapes are analysis that we do to determine the best time to pick the grapes such as Brix, Acidiity, and pH. Also in conjunction with these numbers we are tasting the berries for sensory analysis, flavor and balance between sugar and acid, looking for color change in the seeds from green to brown, and how firm or squishy the grapes are. Weather is a curve ball mother nature throws at us consistently. I am chasing brix levels but am careful not to let the fruit be compromised from wet weather. Also juggling the schedule of all the grapes to be processed since each one ripens are a different rate and time.

Tiffany Robibero Selby and Harry Robibero

Tiffany Robibero Selby and Harry Robibero

3. Once the grapes are picked what is the process of getting it from vine to bottle?

The process of getting the grapes from vine to bottle varies each year and with each wine. Taking into consideration what the quality and quantity of the grapes are, the style of wine I want to make and what the market demand is. Some wines I keep consistent and try to produce them in the same way and others I experiment with and try to make a new or different wine. For whites my goal to is get them into the bottle relatively quickly to preserve the natural fruit characteristics of the grape. The grapes are de-stemmed, crushed, and then gently pressed where the juice is then transfered to tanks for cold settling to remove sediment. Once the clear and settled the juice is inoculated with a specific strain of yeast meant for the type of wine to be made. The Fermentation is kept cool and slow through temperature controlled wine tanks which in doing so brings out the fruit in the wine. Nutrients are added during fermentation to keep the yeast happy and productive which helps to avoid stress that can lead to off flavors in the wine. Once the fermentation is complete the wine is racked off the lees, fined and then filtered before bottling. The wines are constantly tasted through out the process to determine sweetness levels or blending possibilities.

For the reds the grapes are de-stemmed and then crushed into small bins for fermentation. Some reds like our Cabernet Franc are not crushed but just de-stemmed and fermented whole berry to bring out more fruit. Our Rose is made in the traditional Saignee method and that juice is extracted from the fermentation bins immediately and fermented separately in the same process as the whites. The reds are fermented quicker and at higher temperatures. Punch downs of the cap are done daily multiple times to exaction color and tannin. At the tail end of the fermentations the wine is pressed and transferred to barrels for elevage. The reds will be racked several times and take longer than the whites (1-2 years) before they end up on the bottle. They are tasted often to determine the right amount of oak they are receiving from the barrel, how they are progressing with age, and for blending trials. Once barrel aging and blending trials are complete they are bottled for more aging before release. These are some of the major steps in the process but many more smaller steps go between.

4. No events allow the public to participate in Harvest. For employees only.

5. To celebrate harvest we have a grape stomping festival September 24th and 25th