No More Port ?!?

Many of our club members received a bottle of Port XIII in their recent club shipment. Now that this port has been released, I wanted to reach out and let you know that we reached a decision this summer to discontinue any future Port Production.

There will be no more Schweiger Port!!!

Now that I have your attention: Don’t panic! We will continue to make the same style wine you enjoy, we are just choosing to not call it “Port” anymore. After my trip to Portugal last year, I developed a fondness for the growers and winemakers of the Duoro and Porto regions. Even though we are grandfathered in and legally allowed to call it “Port”, we no longer feel right using their legally protected place name. Instead we will use a proprietary name and will continue the roman numerals for the releases, picking up with XIV when we bottle in the spring of 2017.

“So Andy, what are you going to call it?”
Well, funny you should ask; what do YOU think we should call it? We have so many club members with creative minds; I thought I’d give you the opportunity to help out. If we pick your submission, you will receive a special 6 pack of our dessert wines, including the VERY FIRST bottle of the newly named dessert wine to come off the bottling line in May.

Have a good idea? Please email submissions to by November 30th, 2016.

What’s the future of dessert wine at Schweiger?
Our Cabernet Ports have experienced universal praise by our club over the years, so we will continue producing this Cabernet dessert wine in years where growing conditions allow us to do so. Additionally, I came back from Portugal very enthused to not only continue our red dessert wine program, but expand on it a bit. This past harvest, I tried an experiment which tastes magnificent! I’ll share more about this in early next year.  Finally, there’s another project I’m working on which I intend to release in 2019. Stay tuned…it’s going to be great!

We are very grateful for your continued support of Schweiger Vineyards and forward to your name suggestions!

Andy “NotPort” Schweiger

2016 Harvest Recap

Another harvest is now behind us. The picking bins have been put away and covered. The tractors are all lubed and greased and resting inside the barn. Seed for a cover crop has been spread and since the last of the grapes came in, we’ve received over nine inches of rain. I thought it would be fitting to take a moment and share some of the fun and excitement of the harvest just ended.

Justin and I like to be READY when harvest starts. As early as the first week of August we were pulling lids off of tanks, cleaning picking bins, servicing equipment, and cleaning, cleaning cleaning! Fred and I removed the spray rig and got all the tractors set for their most important time of year. Yeast ordered? Check! Barrels delivered? Check! Beer refrigerator stocked? Check!

One thing I love about making Sauvignon Blanc is it gives us a chance to make sure everything is ready. Almost every year, Sauvignon Blanc is the first varietal we bring in. This year we harvested the SB on September 2nd (by great coincidence, the exact same date as the 2015 harvest). The nature of processing Sauvignon Blanc involves almost every single piece of equipment we own; destemmer, press, sorting table, glycol refrigeration, argon system, bungie cords, and sometimes even electrical tape!

After bringing in the Sauvignon Blanc, the weather really cooled down, giving us two weeks to focus on racking the Sauvignon Blanc juice and monitoring its fermentation in barrel. We kept getting itchy, waiting to really start up harvest; you can’t hurry nature and we were patient. We sampled, we waited. We sampled more, we waited more.

September 15 is when we really started to open the harvest gates. Over the next 15 days we harvested almost every day, bringing in over 65 ton. When you have this many consecutive fruit days you need to manage your time carefully. The day isn’t only about farming. We would start the day getting the crew out picking at first light, then back inside to punch down and monitor fermentations. Some days we’re also draining and shoveling a tank to press off. By 10 a.m. most days, enough grapes had been picked that it was time processing fruit. This is our second harvest with a sorting table. While it is incredible to have greater control over the quality of fruit coming in the winery, it does come at an expense…finding people willing to work the table for hours on end, watching fruit come bouncing by.

Not only did our office, sales, and tasting room staff do an amazing job at jumping in whenever possible, but staff spouses, children, and friends were here. Our volunteer crew did an amazing job at pulling wayward leaves and underdeveloped fruit before it found its way into the winery.

Adding to the normal excitement of harvest, a clutch of rattlesnake eggs hatched late September. Over a 6 day period we became hyperaware as each day it seemed we were spotting a few more of these 9 inch long varmint-terminators (so small that they had not developed rattles or the distinctive head shape). You definitely are on your toes for a few hours when you bend down to grab a water hose and find a small baby rattler right next to it. Our final count was 14 of these snakes. Thankfully, nobody (human or canine) was bitten…even better, it was an injury free harvest; sore muscles, tired brains, bruises and scratches requiring fewer than 9 stitches (electrical tape works wonders) do not count as accidents, right?

Every day, the quality of the fruit we were bringing in was amazing. Justin, Fred, and I are all very excited to see how this vintage develops. We have a few experiments with new barrels and even a few new products to be bringing to your dinner table in the years to come.

So, here we are today. Both the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay have fermented dry and are aging in barrel. The red varietals are all going through malolactic fermentation; the earliest lots just completed last week and it looks like we are on target to be completely finished by the end of 2016. The vineyard is slowly going to sleep for the winter. If you have a moment, we’d love for you to come up and take a look; the leaves slowly changing yellow to orange to brown are not to be missed!

Time to Punch Out! (Part 7 in Andy’s on-going Portugal travels)

As we pick up the journey of our intrepid hero, our cork bark slabs had been aged to stabilize, boiled and sorted. They now hop a northbound truck to the processing facility in Porto. Many times, slabs that were boiled and sorted on a Monday may be punched as early as Tuesday or Wednesday.

The slabs were all pre-sorted before their journey. For punching, the factory pulls just one grade of slabs to work with on a given time. Men wearing Kevlar gloves grab one slab at a time and run it along a preset jig depending on the length of cork they are producing that day. At Schweiger Vineyards, we traditionally use a 49 mm cork, however in recent years, we started using a 54 mm length cork. Both corks do an equal job of sealing the bottle, but there is a prevailing belief to produce longer corks, you need to source from the better slabs. You rarely see low quality 54 mm corks. Conversely, you rarely see high quality 44 mm corks. These are primarily used for inexpensive, bulk production, factory farm wines.

Ah, but where was I…the freshly cut strips now travel up a conveyer, where they drop into one of several hoppers. Each hopper feeds to an individual M.A. Silva employee who takes one strip at a time, placing it against a stainless steel back stop. Their foot controls the forward/backward motion of a special hollowed out drill. As they work, the drill continuously spins, being driven by a series of belts. When they are ready to punch, they push down their foot, bringing the drill bit into the block, ejecting a freshly cut cork. The placement of the punch has to be very precise. Too close to the belly (inside of the bark) or the bark (outside of the bark) results in an uneven cork that will not seal correctly. Once the worker has punched the maximum corks possible out of a strip, the strip is thrown into a conveyer hopper where it is taken away to be ground up.

I have to stop here for a moment. One really cool thing I learned on this trip is how little waste there is in cork production. These “Holy” strips, once ground up, are placed into bales and loaded onto the trucks that just brought them north. These trucks don’t deadhead back down south; they get filed with this granular cork and head back to the boiling facility where the granules are used to fire the boilers for the next batch of cork slabs.

The final part of the punching process is a polish. The individual corks get a quick brushing with a sanding wheel to ensure that the outer surface is as smooth and even as possible. From here, the corks will move on to sorting, washing, and sorting…to be covered in an upcoming post!