Winemaker Neil Collins discusses progress on the 2010 vintage
A New Harvest 2010 Photo Essay

Harvest, weeks of October 18 and 25: Hurry up and wait.

In the last two weeks, we've harvested another 99 tons, mostly of Grenache (37 tons), Mourvedre (29 tons) and Roussanne (14 tons).  The weather has alternated between sunny and warm and cool and cloudy, with a little rain on the 23rd and a little more this past weekend.  Still, we're in remarkably good shape compared to wine regions to the north.  We've accumulated just over an inch of rain so far this year, while the North Coast has had two different rainstorms of two inches or more.  And each storm has been followed by sunny, breezy weather, which dried out the clusters and allowed us to resume harvesting just a few days later.

Thus far, we've harvested just over 300 tons off of our vineyard, already 50% more than we did in the tiny 2009 harvest.  Neil and Ryan estimate that we have perhaps another 40-50 tons out that we'll pick, which should give us somewhere between 3 and 3.5 tons per acre off of our 105 producing acres this year -- exactly what we're looking for.

What's left out in the vineyard is Mourvedre (the bulk of what's out), Roussanne, Counoise, and a little bit of Grenache Noir.  In each case, there's likely going to be some fruit that won't make it, where vines have shut down or for whatever reason there is fruit hanging out that isn't ripe and isn't going to get there in the next week or so we have before the rain is forecast to move back in.  We're going to be aided by a late summer high pressure system that is bringing warm weather (low 90s, they say) for the middle portion of this week.

At each point, with rain in the forecast, every vineyard faces the choice of whether to pick blocks that are almost ripe or whether to leave them out and hope that the rain passes without much damage.  And each year that we face this question, we force ourselves to wait.  After all, there's nothing to be gained by bringing in fruit you know isn't up to your standards.  And each year, we've been rewarded for our patience.  This year is no different.  What we've gotten after the rain each time has been beautiful, and we're now very excited about the quality of 2010, with dark colors, wonderful aromatics, and good richness.  It should be a pleasure to blend this year after three years of short crops.

A few photos of the harvest from last week give a sense of what it's been like.  First, a Roussanne cluster, bronzed by the sun and showing the russet color from which it gets its name:


Two longer views down a vine row show you how the season is changing, with leaves on the ground and some of the vine foliage starting to change color.  First, Grenache:


And then, Roussanne:


A Tannat vine's leaves are changing color, providing a burst of red:


The grenache clusters (like the one below, harvested late last week) are massive, particularly compared to smaller-cluster grapes like Syrah. The one pictured below had three separate wings and must have weighed several pounds.


As a contrast to the Grenache cluster, check out a Syrah cluster from the one Syrah block still to harvest.  What you see is absolutely characteristic of Syrah in both its shape and blue-black color.


We expect to be harvesting most of this week, both to bring in more Roussanne, Mourvedre and Counoise for our dry wines and also to provide grapes for our Vin de Paille dessert wines.  A pickup truck showed up today with several bales of straw, which will be placed down on our greenhouse benches in preparation for the labor-intensive Vin de Paille harvest.  Look for photos next week!