We finally feel like we're in the middle of harvest. Every day brings a mix of new fruit coming in, sample teams going out, both presses running as we press off fermented red lots and newly-harvested whites, winemakers on the sorting table and de-stemmer processing newly-harvested reds, and even the first outline of our rosés taking shape. The harvest chalkboard is filling up!
Happily, for our sequencing at least, the arrival of Patelin lots via truck have slowed to a trickle. You can see in the chalkboard: the top of the board has mostly blue lots, indicating fruit from Patelin vineyards, while the bottom is mostly white, which denotes estate fruit. It has been great not to have to worry about too much of our Patelin harvest once our estate fruit started coming in in earnest. Here's some of what we know, so far:
The Patelin is mostly done.
We've received 126 tons of fruit for Patelin: 53 tons of white (mostly Grenache Blanc and Viognier), 45 tons of red (mostly Syrah, with a little Grenache), and 28 tons of Grenache that we've direct-pressed to make the base of the Patelin Rosé. We're expecting another 25 or so tons of red, mostly Grenache and Mourvedre, and a few more tons of Mourvedre for the Patelin Rosé.
Harvest off our estate vineyard is heating up.
So far, four grapes are done. The Haas Vineyard Pinot -- often an outlier -- was the first, on 9/3. We completed our harvest of Viognier on 9/9 and Vermentino on 9/11, and picked our last Grenache Blanc this morning. We're probably 80% of the way through Syrah, 40% through Grenache Noir, 25% through Counoise, 15% through Roussanne and Mourvedre, and are yet to start Marsanne (coming in tomorrow), Tannat, or Picpoul. Still, we expect the year to end with Roussanne and Mourvedre, as usual. Overall, we figure we're maybe 40% done with our estate, and expect to hit the halfway mark around the end of the week. This week has been the beginning of a Grenache onslaught. It looks super: intensely colored, with beautiful flavors.
The fruit that's still out looks great, too.
A few photos. First, Roussanne, starting to show the classic russet tint that gives the grape its name:
Next, Mourvedre, still fully inflated, sheltering under its canopy, and likely a couple of weeks away from coming in:
Overall, the vineyard doesn't appear to be struggling as much as we thought it would given how dry it's been. Sure, Roussanne is looking ragged, but it always does this time of year. The Viognier made it, barely. Mourvedre, which also often looks pretty haggard by the time it's picked, is holding up pretty well, as are Grenache and Grenache Blanc, and Counoise.
An early harvest? Not so much.
For all our worries that this would be an exceptionally early harvest, it turns out we're not actually ahead of last year's pace. Looking at the grapes that are done, we finished Viognier and Vermentino roughly a week later this year than last, the Haas Pinot at the same time, and Grenache Blanc one day earlier this year. As of September 13th, 2013, we'd harvested 119 tons off our estate. This year, it was 110 tons at the same date.
The cellar is a moving three-dimensional puzzle that needs a new solution each day.
The challenges in the cellar are logistical: how do we make enough of the right kind of space for the fruit that's coming in. This means pressing off lots that have reached the extraction levels we want (typically about 10 days after harvest) and moving those lots into barrels, cleaning those tanks and then getting them ready to refill with new juice.
We've begun the process of assembling the Dianthus Rosé by bleeding off a tank of Counoise 24 hours post-harvest. A 40-second video takes you through how it's done:
Yields look similar to 2013.
Of the grapes we've finished harvesting, Vermentino's yield is up about 10%, Grenache Blanc nearly identical, and Viognier's down 30% (largely due to wild pig depredation). It looks like Syrah totals will be very similar to last year. The grapes we're thinking might be lighter are Roussanne (which seems to be struggling more than most grapes due to the drought) and Grenache (whose berries and clusters seem small this year; check out the photo below).
But overall, we don't expect big yield differences from 2013. Since we consider last year's yields of 2.66 tons/acre to be characteristic of our best vintages, having similar results this year would be just fine with us. And the weather seems to be continuing to cooperate, with hot-but-not-scorching spells broken by stretches of cool weather that give us a chance to catch back up. Fitting the pattern, it was hot over the weekend, but is forecast to cool down this week. Even so, it looks like we've got maybe another month of harvest, at the outside.
So, looking ahead, that el nino they're now not forecasting for this winter? It can arrive any time after October 15th. If any of you have any pull with the weather gods, that is.