Harvest update: perfect ripening conditions dominate late September, but we see signs of fall
October 01, 2012
The second half of September continued to point our way toward a productive, top-notch harvest. Asking for cool (but not cold) nights and warm (but not hot) days, and ample sunshine, is almost a cliche in wine country, but that's exactly what we got, providing excellent ripening conditions and little additional stress on the vineyard. For grapes like the Grenache vines below, sheltering under their canopy of leaves, it is just what the doctor orders.
Late September is a critical period where heat spikes or unusually cold weather can have a disproportionate impact on the quality of the finished wines as so many of the varieties are ready or nearly ready to harvest. Fortunately, we saw some of our most regular weather of the year: two straight weeks of days topping out in the 80s or low 90s and dropping down into the 40s or 50s at night. While every day made it into the 80s, we hit 95 just once. And while every night dropped at least to 55, we dropped below 45 only once. A graph tells the tale:
It's becoming clearer that yields are going to be fairly good, at least for the grapes outside of Mourvedre and Roussanne. Of the four grapes that we've finished, only Vermentino, of which we have more acres in production, has surpassed the totals that we harvested in 2010, while Viognier, Syrah and Marsanne are below 2010's totals but above what we harvested in both 2009 and 2011. That impression is borne out by the measurements; for those three grapes, we've picked 2.77 tons per acre we have planted.
In those two weeks, in addition to completing our estate harvest of Syrah, Viognier, and Vermentino, we've begun and finished our Marsanne, brought in a good chunk of our Grenache Blanc, some more Roussanne, and our first Grenache Noir. You can see how clean and pretty the fruit looks in the below photo, of one of the first Grenache Blanc bins to arrive in the cellar:
For Patelin, we have brought in the rest of the Syrah, a good chunk of Roussanne and our small plot of Marsanne, and even gotten a start on Grenache Noir -- some for the Patelin red, but mostly for the new Patelin Rosé. Overall, including the Patelin lots, we've brought in just over 260 tons, which puts us squarely at the midpoint of what we expect. On October 1st, that's just where we want to be.
Looking forward, we're in the middle of what's forecast to be a brief warm-up (3 days around or just over 100) before the current high pressure breaks down and we see some significant cooling and, maybe, by next weekend, even some clouds and our first chance at some light rain. We're not worried about it, but it's a reminder that however summer-like it seems now, with the equinox behind us we're not that far away from fall.