One of the best parts of my job here at Callaway Winery would have to be my scheduled strolls through the vineyard.

Every couple of days, usually in the quiet, cool of the early morning, I take a walk up and down the rows of vines, just to see how all the ‘kids’ are doing.

Yesterday morning, I noticed a milestone in the evolution of the 2015 vintage: the beginning of ‘Veraison’ in the Sangiovese and Zinfandel blocks here at the winery.

So what does that mean and what makes it so exciting?

‘Verasion’ is a French term meaning ‘Ripening’.  When the berries of the vine first begin their development, they are small, green and full of acids. While their unpleasant flavor means that the birds and animals will leave them alone, they aren’t exactly what a winemaker wants!

The first, visible indication of verasion is a color change in the grapes, most noticeable with the reds. You start to see the grape berries develop their own, distinctive, varietal characteristics and appearance. Inside the berries, the sugars are starting to develop, along with other important characteristics such as flavors and tannins.

As for me, I’ll be crossing my fingers for perfect growing conditions: not too hot (grapes can get sunburns, too), low humidity so we don’t have to worry about mildew and cool nights, which give the vines a chance to recuperate from the day and keep their acid levels balanced.

Different grape varieties develop at different rates, with some developing faster than others, but once veraison begins, it’s a sign that harvest is approximately six to eight weeks away.

And so the official countdown to Harvest 2015 begins.