I snuck out yesterday morning to get some photos of the ever-diminishing portions of the vineyard that still have grapes on them. One block that I particularly wanted to see was Syrah, given that it was scheduled to be picked in the afternoon. It was looking suitably autumnal:
We're pretty much done with everything except Roussanne and Mourvedre, and even Mourvedre is more than two-thirds picked. This week we'll be cleaning up the parcels we've harvested already, going through to get the bottoms of the hills, the cool pockets, and the slightly less ripe clusters we left behind on our main picks. After that, we'll just be waiting on Roussanne, which is doing its normal late-season swoon, with leaves turning yellow and ripening slowing to a crawl. It will get there, but it will take its time. Overall, we're probably about 85% done.
It is clear to us now that our hopes for near-normal yields on our late grapes like Roussanne and Mourvedre will not come to pass. They may be down a little less than the 50% reduction we saw in early grapes like Syrah, Vermentino, and Viognier, but they'll still be down something near 40%. This will make the 2015 harvest our smallest ever in yield per acre, and our smallest estate harvest in tonnage since frost-diminished 2001, when we had 45 fewer acres in production.
I'll have more details in an upcoming harvest recap, but we're already conducting triage, doing our best to figure out what we're going to do to adjust to the tiny yields. Grapes we're used to having comfortably enough of to include in a wine club shipment and still have a few hundred cases to sell after (think Vermentino) won't even make enough to get a bottle to each club member. We'll be making a lot less Dianthus rosé (and by a lot less, I mean like 85% less) because (firstly) the red grapes don't need any further concentrating at 1.5 tons per acre, and (secondly) we felt that dedicating the 3800 gallons we'd need to make the same 1600 cases of Dianthus we did in the 2014 vintage would leave us unable to make many of our red wines. As I said, triage.
Still, there are three saving graces at the moment. First, we feel lucky to have gotten reasonable quantities of wine (down only slightly compared to normal) in both 2013 and 2014, and it's becoming increasingly clear to us that those two vintages are the best back-to-back vintages in terms of quality in our history. Second, we have the Patelin de Tablas program, and we've been able to find some terrific additional sources for all three colors and keep our production more or less where we wanted it. Third, the quality of the 2015 vintage looks comparable to the last two years. If there's not much of it, at least it will be stunning.
One last photo, of Mourvedre sheltering under its canopy. Not long now, and photos like this one will be history, for another year.