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Harvest, Weeks of September 12th and 19th: A Quiet Beginning

As is typically the case, the 2011 harvest began quietly, with a few grapes trickling in over the first week or so before picking up steam.  The first grapes of the season arrived on Thursday, September 15th: about three tons of mostly Viognier (there was a little Roussanne mixed in) from two small vineyards in the El Pomar section of Templeton.  These will go into the 2011 Patelin de Tablas Blanc.  A photo of the first bin to reach the winery is below.  The hand belongs to Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Magnusson:


The next day saw us bring in our first red, Syrah, for the Patelin red.  This is fermenting in open-top stainless steel fermenters and in our wooden upright tanks.  A cool photo from last week through the opened top of the upright shows the Syrah bubbling away like a witch's brew.  As typically happens for us, the native yeast fermentations started right up, no problem.


The week of the 19th saw the first fruit from Tablas Creek Vineyard: about six tons of Vermentino off a beautiful parcel planted in 2007 at the western edge of the property.  Most encouraging about this picking is that we had estimated that there were about 9 bins in that section but found that there were really 12.  This and other similar results bode well for yields throughout the vineyard, which I had been worried would be at 2009 levels: below 2 tons per acre.  I'm no longer so worried about that.  The photo below shows the Vermentino, bins in the cellar in front and a press full of Vermentino behind:


The next day saw our first estate Roussanne, which looked great and allayed another fear we'd had, that with the cold spring and the late start to harvest we might be looking at an end of harvest in mid-November like last year.  But it appears that while the varieties that had sprouted before April's frosts are delayed, those that were still dormant are more or less on schedule.  That will mean that while we'll have a crazy October we're not likely to have as much fruit hanging in November as we did last year.

At the end of last week we got in our first Grenache, from La Vista Vineyard just down the street from us on Adelaida Road.  This was a very strong component of last year's Patelin, and this year's Grenache looked great:


The last two weeks have been warm, with most days topping out in the low- to mid-90s, and nights that dropped down only to the mid-50s.  This is perfect ripening weather, and it was clear at the end of last week that this week harvest was going to hit us full force.  We put in our first Saturday of the season (La Vista Syrah) and for this week we're looking at Syrah from several blocks, Pinot Noir from my dad's vineyard in Templeton, more Viognier, Vermentino and Roussanne for sure and perhaps Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne.  Happily, things cooled off on Sunday and Monday (highs in the 70s) so we could assess.  But with a warm day today and more warmth forecast for the rest of the week, we might see nearly 100 tons before the end of September.

We're buckled up and ready to roll.