What a difference two years makes. As of September 15th in 2011 (and 2010, for that matter) we were looking at each other and re-sampling the vineyard, trying to figure out what to do with ourselves as we waited for the delayed harvest to begin. Even last year, as of September 15th we'd only brought in 52 tons (14%) of the eventual 370 tons we'd harvest off of the estate.
Fast forward one year, and we've picked 119 tons off of our estate (43% of the roughly 275 tons we're expecting). The numbers are even more dramatic when you include the Patelin harvests; because the Patelin Blanc is based on the early-ripening Grenache Blanc and Viognier, and the Patelin red on Syrah -- and because the majority of the vineyards are in warmer parts of the appellation than we are -- the Patelin harvest skews earlier than our estate fruit. We brought in the last Patelin Blanc lot on Saturday and have already picked 75 tons for Patelin red, roughly three-quarters of what we're expecting to get in all harvest.
The cellar is a beehive of activity, with white grapes being pressed, red grapes being destemmed and moved to tanks, and other red tanks being pressed off. It smells amazing: the unique, yeasty, juicy, tangy aroma of fermenting grapes.
A few photos will give you a sense of what's going on. First, a photo of bins of Grenache Noir assembled at the cellar door, waiting to be de-stemmed for fermentation:
We make tank space for these new arrivals by pressing off the tanks that have reached the level of extraction we want. Leave grapes in too long and they start breaking down the seeds, which adds bitterness. I love this next photo of red juice (a Syrah/Grenache co-ferment that will go into Patelin) splashing into the pan below the press, from where it's being pumped into tanks to complete its fermentation:
At the same time, we have white grapes arriving, which need to be pressed right away and then moved to tanks or barrels to ferment. Our last Picpoul Blanc arrived yesterday:
The harvest chalkboard is growing, to the point that we're running out of space:
Quality looks strong, and yields appear to be down by some 20% - 25% compared to last year, confirming that we're in the range of 2.5 tons/acre or a touch more. The dark, electric colors and rich flavors we're seeing in our early lots suggest we're looking at something special. If you don't think a color can be dark and electric at the same time, check out the Syrah -- Still fermenting! -- that Cellarmaster Tyler Elwell is holding:
The weather forecast for this week (cooling off to highs in the lower 80's, and cool, perhaps foggy nights) should give us a bit of a respite. But with most everything ready or nearly so, we're not planning on much of a break. We've still got most of our Roussannne and Grenache Noir, and all of our Mourvedre and Counoise, out on the vines. Grenache is first up.