Today we welcomed into the cellar the first fruit of 2015: eight bins of Viognier from Fralich Vineyard, for our Patelin de Tablas Blanc. And with that, the 2015 harvest is underway:
Things look like they're moving pretty fast now, particularly after this past weekend saw temperatures soar into the low 100's both days. It's cooled down since, but we're sampling most of the vineyards that we're expecting Syrah and Viognier from for Patelin and Patelin Blanc, and doing a first systematic pass through the same varieties in our own vineyard. We'll get a little more fruit in tomorrow, then take a break to bottle the 2013 Esprit de Tablas before getting back at it next week.
It is wonderful to have the smell of new fruit in the cellar, particularly Viognier, which is as aromatic when it's newly picked as it is in the glass: honey and peaches and spice. And the fruit looked good. But we were expecting something more like 15 bins today than the 8 we received.
We expected that crop levels would be light in this fourth year of drought, and we know that some of the earlier grapes (notably Syrah and Viognier) were flowering during our unusually cool, breezy May. These aren't ideal flowering conditions, and we've seen evidence of shatter in our own vineyard and from our expeditions to the vineyards we source from for Patelin. But we were all taken by surprise by just how light this first pick turned out to be.
It is something of a maxim in vineyard analysis that when you see evidence of yields being light, they end up even lighter than you were thinking, while when you see evidence of heavier yields it ends up being even heavier than you expect. And we have been seeing other evidence that yields will be light, from observations of lower cluster counts and smaller clusters to relatively high sugars and relatively high acids in our samples. Perhaps less intuitively, further evidence is provided by the fact that the vines look notably healthy, when with heavier yields you would expect to see more signs of stress.
So, I've been steeling myself for this news. And with the Patelin, we have options; we have handshake agreements with several local vineyards that if we realize that we're light during harvest, they'll find some fruit for us. We may not be able to make up all the difference, but we can bridge the gap a bit. Those phone calls started this morning.
The estate vineyard, however, doesn't offer this recourse. If we end up light, we just make less wine. It's likely only another week before we find out the extent to which that will be true.