And, as of 1:30pm today, we're live, with the arrival of the first fruit of the 2012 harvest. As usual in the world of Rhones, we started with Viognier, this for our Patelin de Tablas Blanc from Paso Ridge, at the warm north end of the El Pomar District. The guests of honor:
A September 4th start is just about average for us; since 2000, our average start date is September 7th.
The very warm start to August does not appear to have accelerated things dramatically, perhaps because the vines were carrying a relatively healthy crop, perhaps because vines tend to shut down photosynthesis when it gets up around 100. Sugars do appear to be a bit higher this year than in the past few years, and I expect our five-year trend of decreasing average sugars at harvest to end this year. Still, we're pleased with the balance we're seeing, with acids holding strong even as the grapes start to look and taste ripe.
Looking ahead, we'll move forward this week with more Viognier and our first Syrah from some of the warmer vineyards from which we source Patelin. We're expecting the Chardonnay that we use for our Antithesis to be the first estate fruit we pick, either tomorrow or Thursday, and before the end of the week we'll likely bring in both the Haas Vineyard Pinot Noir and the tiny nursery block of Pinot on our own estate. By early next week, we're looking at our first Rhone varieties off the estate, likely Viognier and Vermentino, as well as more Patelin lots. By two weeks from now, we'll be inundated.
Looking back, the years with the most similar start dates are 2000 (September 8th) and 2002 (September 6th). But the year that this reminds me most of in how it's developed is 2005, which was also a productive year (somewhat more so than this one) with a warm summer but a fairly late start to harvest. If that holds, we're in for a treat. The 2005's were and still are deep, powerful and rich, but with good freshness and balance. We'll know, soon enough.