United States wine consumption and production changes (and what they mean for California wineries)
50-Mile Dinner with Cass House Inn & Restaurant

Harvest, Week of September 15th: Watching and Waiting

Last week saw continued moderate temperatures, with most days peaking in the lower 80s and nights in the 40s.  This is perfect ripening weather... as long as you're not in a hurry.  The grapes are gradually accumulating sugars, and the cold nights mean that acids are remaining intense.  All this adds up to a week where we harvested very little.  We harvested just two days, and brought in roughly thirteen tons.  Half of this was our first Grenache Blanc of the season, and the rest evenly divided between most of our remaining Viognier and some additional Syrah.

So far for the year, we've harvested about 48 tons.  This puts us behind last year's pace (at the same time last year, we'd harvested 76 tons) but well ahead of 2006, when we didn't begin harvest until September 14th.

I thought it might be interesting to check in on the different red varietals to see what almost-ripe looks like.  I didn't feel the need to repeat the Mourvedre photos I took last week, but visited the blocks of Syrah, Grenache and Counoise.  First, Syrah, ready to pick (most of it has in fact been picked, but this is at the bottom of one of our hills in a comparatively cool spot).  Note the deep blue-black color and the berries starting to deflate:


Next on tap will be our Grenache.  We're scheduled to bring in our first picking later this week, from the top of one of the hills.  This photo is from a cluster toward the bottom of the same hill, which we probably won't pick for three weeks at least.  Note Grenache's traditional pink-purple color and relatively generous cluster size:


It was challenging to take a representative photo of Counoise, which had clusters already turning to raisins alongside others that were only mid-way through veraison. (If you click through to my post on veraison you'll see that Counoise was also the last to begin to turn color this summer).  The following cluster seemed pretty average, with the majority of the grapes a pretty blue-purple but with a few pinkish grapes too:


As we get deeper into harvest, we're getting more concerned about our yields.  Many other wineries nearby are reporting yields even smaller than the tiny yields of 2007.  The drastically lower yeilds seem to be concentrated in vineyards growing Zinfandel and Cabernet (both of which were afflicted by shatter this year) but even other Rhone producers are starting to sound alarmed at the size of their crops.  We still think we'll come in ahead of 2007's quantity numbers, but I have a lot less confidence saying that than I did two weeks ago.