During my visit to Cote Rotie I had the opportunity to participate in picking late harvest Roussanne at La Rosine vineyard, one of the estate properties of Domaine Michel & Stephane Ogier. The first thing that struck me about the site was how green the vineyard floor was. The reality for us after three dry seasons in California is that everything around us is completely brown, including the oak trees. My eyes were so soothed by the beautiful green grasses.
A lot of the ground cover is familiar (see the fillaree in the photo below?). And I was surprised to see that there are mushrooms everywhere too! We don’t see those much on the vineyard floor in California.
The first thing I learned is where the definition of “back-breaking” work comes from. At home the cordon height is about waist height on me, or 46″ from the ground. In Cote Rotie, most of the vines have fruit zones only 8″ from the ground.
I was literally on my hands and knees picking grapes in this vineyard. Imagine doing squats all day long. My quads were experiencing muscle exhaustion relatively quickly, and I’m in pretty good shape. I was thinking as I was picking that I could give them some insight on how to make this job infinitely easier…simply raise the height of the fruit zone. But I didn’t take into consideration that they use the heat that radiates off the soil to help ripen the fruit on the vines in this cooler than Paso Robles climate.
La Rosine is just outside of the Cote Rotie appellation, and it is relatively flat in comparison to most of the vineyards that I visited. Still, there were some moments while picking grapes when I found myself using the stakes to hold myself in place. At some other vineyards, I used them like ski poles to climb uphill.
Something that I saw in Cote Rotie that I would like to bring home to the vineyards in Paso Robles is the straw that they use to tie shoots to stakes. It’s economical, biodegradable, renewable, and it doesn’t girdle grapevines.
We picked the botrytis covered grapes into buckets, and then transferred them into bigger boxes for transport to the winery.