Ten days into the 2017 harvest, our winery crew was looking harried. Seven consecutive 105°+ days produced an avalanche of fruit. Right as we were genuinely wondering what we would do if the heat kept up, the weather broke, and now, two weeks later, it still hasn't really put itself back together. Take a look at our high temperatures compared to seasonal averages:
Since the heat wave broke on September 4th, we've had only two days above our seasonal averages, and the average high (84.1°) has been more than five degrees cooler than we'd expect. At first, there was a bit of a backlog of fruit ready to pick, but by the time we got to this past weekend, we were back in waiting mode:
To have a slower period like this in mid-September is a luxury. We've been able to free up tank space ahead of the next wave of fruit we know will be coming, and we've been able to spend a lot of time out in the vineyards testing, waiting for the right moment. And the pace really has slowed. After 110 and 142(!) ton weeks to start harvest, last week saw just 54 tons arrive at the winery, and we've only picked 16 tons so far this week.
So, with 322 tons received, we're at or just past the mid-point on our harvest, based on our estimates. And now that we've finished picking some of our early grapes, it gives us a chance to assess where yields are compared to what we'd expected and compared to other years. And things look solid. The 19 tons of Viognier we picked was up about 33% compared to 2016. Vermentino (22 tons) is up about 15%. We're not quite done with Syrah, but the 33 tons we've picked is close to last year's 37 tons. The 4.7 tons of Marsanne we picked is almost identical to last year's 4.5 tons, though still very low. Overall, I'm guessing we end up slightly up from last year's numbers, but not by much.
The cellar has been its usual dance, with fruit coming in (albeit at a more moderate rate) while other tanks are fermenting away and yet others are being pressed off to make space. One fun consequence has been that we have Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc, and even Grenache Rose fermenting at the same time. Check out the colors:
The colors aren't only inside the winery. Outside the vineyard, it's starting to look -- as well as feel -- like fall. As the vines start to lose chlorophyll, the autumn oranges and reds come out. It's more dramatic on some grapes than others, but Syrah and Mourvedre are particularly lovely. This Mourvedre vine is from right outside the winery; anyone coming to visit in the next few weeks should see a scene very much like this:
So, where are we, at harvest's mid-point? Largely done with our Patelin picks, with the exception of some Mourvedre and a little Grenache and Syrah. Off our estate, we're done with our early whites (Viognier, Vermentino, Marsanne) and mostly done with Grenache Blanc and Syrah. We've made a start on Grenache, and today got our first Tannat into the cellar. Next week, we'll turn in a serious way to Grenache, and maybe get started on the later-ripening Roussanne, Mourvedre and Counoise.
It feels somehow appropriate that we've filled in the left-hand column of our harvest chalkboard. With the forecast set for it to warm back up next week, it feels like we can dispense with the halftime entertainment and get on with the second half.
We'll be back for the second half kickoff, after this break.