Five great events for food & wine lovers
A first in-depth look at the 2009 Tablas Creek red wines

Harvest, weeks of September 20 & 27: A warm start to fall and a slow start to the harvest

After our cool summer, the warm weather that began about a week ago has been most welcome.  And although it's been extreme in parts of Southern California (113 in Los Angeles, anyone?) it's just a normal September heat wave here.  We did get up to 104 yesterday, but only 101 the day before and 90s for the previous week.  One more very hot day today, and then it's supposed to moderate into a more normal warm fall weather pattern with highs in the low 90s and lows in the upper 40s.

We've withstood the heat without any significant stress on the vineyard.  This is one reason why having a dry-farmed vineyard, particularly coming off a wet year, is so valuable.  The vines' roots have penetrated so deep in search of water that hot temperatures at the surface have much less impact.  Just driving around local vineyards shows vineyard after irrigated vineyard that looks much worse than it did a week ago: exhausted vines, leaves turning brown, clusters starting to raisin.

The first two weeks of harvest have seen exclusively whites come in.  We've brought in about 6 tons of Vermentino, 8 tons of Viognier, and 5 tons of Grenache Blanc.  So, only 20 tons or so (about 6% of our expected total tonnage) in the first two weeks (about 20% of our expected harvest duration).  It is normal for us to see this sort of leisurely start to harvest, where we pick a few blocks, wait a few days, pick a few more, and wait some more.  Typically, about two weeks after the first grapes come in, we're in the thick of it. 

This year looks similar.  With the recent heat, we've seen a nice increase in the sugar levels of the vineyard, but still maintained the good acids that have characterized this moderate vintage.  It looks like several vineyard blocks are getting close, including Syrah, Marsanne, and much more of all the varieties that we've started picking. With so much nearly ready, Neil, Ryan and Chelsea are keeping a master list of what's getting close and working through it block by block.

In addition to a few more tons of Viognier, we did get our first red into the cellar today: Pinot Noir from the 2.5 acre vineyard around my parents' house in Templeton.  It's cooler there than it is at Tablas (often 10 degrees or more) and so when they were deciding what to plant they decided on the cool-loving Pinot Noir.  We've been watching the vines mature over the past three years, and got our first small (1.04 ton) harvest off the block this morning.  The clusters looked great, tiny and flavorful, and they're fermenting in a macro-bin in the winery.


It's almost a tease to start with so little red.  The cellar smells different when you have reds in, both deeper and fruitier, and of course we have a different suite of equipment out, including sorting table and destemmer, ladders and punch-down tools.  We're all ready for the reds to come in in earnest.  It shouldn't be long now.

One last photo, of the bin of Pinot Noir stems and the fork we use to move them around.  The smell of the Pinot juice was pretty amazing.  Can't wait for Syrah.

Stems and fork