This is a deceptively quiet time of year. We aren't harvesting any more, but we're still pressing off some red lots in the cellar and only a few select lots have actually finished fermentation. In the vineyard, we're doing anything we can to help the vines gather resources for 2010 before they go dormant. In a typical vintage, that would include some post-harvest irrigation as well as fertilization and seeding of the cover crop. This year, we have an enormous advantage: the 10-inch rainstorm from October that threatened the harvest. Winemaker Ryan Hebert calculated that we'd have to irrigate 24 hours a day, every day, for seven months in order to match the 10 inches of rain that fell.
So, the vineyard is greener and the cover crop off to an earlier start than I can ever remember. The big storm also had the impact of allowing the compost and other organic fertilizers that we've spread on the vineyard over the last year to penetrate the soil. You can apply anything you want to the vineyard... but unless you have the rain to allow it to get into the soil (and deep enough into the soil to reach where the vines' roots are) you're not going to see much effect.
This is also the time of year when the fall colors are at their peak. Syrah, particularly, colors up almost like a maple tree, with reds and oranges as well as yellows and greens. I took the opportunity to get out in the vineyard a bit to get some of the photos of what's going on. First, a shot I loved from outside the winery, as we steam clean barrels. Steam cleaning is much more efficient in its water use than pressure cleaning, and more effective to boot. On a cool morning, the steam billowing around the barrels was fun to try to photograph. Check out the rainbow.
Getting out into the vineyard (the Roussanne block in this case) you can see both the new cover crop and the effects of the disking that we've done to break up the soil and allow both rain and nutrients to penetrate the soil:
There was a dramatic contrast between a section of Grenache Blanc, still a spring-like yellow-green, and a Syrah block in full fall colors. An owl box (unoccupied, this year) is in the foreground.
A look up between two Syrah rows shows how advanced the cover crop is for early November. Most years, we haven't had our first rain yet by now, and November looks very dry and brown.
In the Syrah, I found a second-crop cluster that had not been harvested, nicely framed next to a particularly colorful leaf:
I took several shots of the Syrah foliage. My favorite is the one below.
And finally, one last photo of the same border between the Grenache Blanc and Syrah, set against the clear November sky: