Chardonnay Harvest: Ventura County Vineyards August 2021

Clos des Amis winermaker Bruce Freeman with a truckload of Olivelands Chardonnay, Santa Paula, Ventura County, CA

It’s that moment we’ve all been waiting for and preparing for: Harvest 2021! A week or so ago, I spent two days picking and then processing the Chardonnay from the Olivelands Vineyard just south of Santa Paula, Ventura County, California. These grapes will go into the Clos des Amis Olivelands Chardonnay, a small experimental vineyard hidden in a pocket hillside and surrounded by avocado trees just above rural Olivelands Elementary school near Wheeler Canyon where I grew up picking the best apricots off the trees there..

We picked five bins by hand, carrying the five gallon buckets to the truck and hoisting them into the bin in the back.

By we I mean Martin Ramirez’s hard working and good natured crew. Bruce and Gretel gave them some direction, and we filled buckets as well but we are slow compared to his team! 

Bruce checks the brix.

Once the bins got to the winery, we bucketed four bins of the fruit into the crusher destemmer, and Bruce checked the brix.

The next step is to press the grapes off the skins.

Bruce uses a basket press, and he chose to line the outside of the press with full clusters.

Then we bucketed in the crushed and destemmed grape material. Once that juice is squeezed out, we release the pressure and refill it.

We repeated this a few times, producing a dense “cake” of chardonnay.


And of course there’s lunch!

Sandy (pictured below) picked us some figs which I sliced in half, added a chunk of goat cheese, sprinkled with fried panchetta, and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic. I also brought tomatoes from my garden for a caprese salad, and Gretel brought the goods for a spinach salad as well as ribs and chicken Alfredo. 

If you’re looking for a Chardonnay that’s under $20 and over performs, that’s versatile and pairs well with a wide range of dishes, and that’s enjoyable and refreshing on its own, look no further! 

2016 Clos des Amis Chardonnay, Olivelands Vineyard, Ventura County
ABV 13.3% 
SRP $18 (from the winery)
sample for our review

Stainless steel tank, no ML

Color: Golden, buttercup, very pretty color

Nose: Butterscotch, Golden Delicious Apple, pear, 

Palate: Tart acidity yet creamy mouth feel, apple, pineapple upside down cake, lovely lingering finish, smooth. 

Pairing : Go with oysters if you can! Oysters on the palate and this wine makes us so happy. Marinated grilled tuna is so fantastic with the wine. It’s my go to wine with seafood — which we eat several times a week! It’s great for a picnic lunch, especially with salads and wraps that include Caesar type dressings or caprese with basil, mozzarellas, Italian dressing. So good with fig with goat cheese and wrapped with prosciutto.  

Along with picking and processing, we’ve been monitoring the progress of the fermentation of the rose.

It smells a lot like bananas right now!

Gretel checking to see how the ferment is going.

Tomorrow I’ll be picking and processing sauvignon blanc grapes at the Clos des Amis Estate vineyard on South Mountain in Santa Paula, Ventura County. 

It’s been an ideal harvest so far– not too hot! Today it even sprinkled as I drove by the Fillmore and Santa Paula vineyards on the way back from taking my kid to college

Right now after a week of stress getting my kid off to college, with four days driving 5-6 hours a day through the smoke of the Caldor fire … I’m ready for bed and I’m falling asleep now…

This is part of a monthly series which I began in January 2019 when I first ventured out to help at Clos des Amis. Read more about Clos des Amis and Ventura County wineries and vineyards in this mostly once a monthly series:

and more:


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