A little more than a month ago, I predicted that the 2018 harvest would begin sometime in the first half of September. I was almost right. We actually got our first fruit -- a couple of tons of Viognier -- on August 31st. About five tons of Viognier came in for our Patelin de Tablas Blanc on September 5th. And then, this morning, we picked our first red grapes: 2.6 tons of Pinot Noir from my parents' vineyard:
How does this leisurely beginning to the 2018 harvest stack up against other recent years? Much slower. The first 11 days of the 2018 harvest saw 10.64 tons of fruit arrive in the cellar, which is just 16% of our average (67.34 tons in the first 11 days) this decade. The decade has included cool and hot vintages, early and late starts, and even in the years with the slowest starts we saw at least triple the amount of fruit arriving in the cellar during the first week and a half of harvest. So, we really are seeing an outlier this year. The below chart will illustrate, and I've also tossed on the chart the date of our first Full Circle Pinot Noir harvest, for comparison:
|Tons, First 11 Days
|Date of First Pinot Harvest
You can see, in addition to how unusual this slow start to harvest is, just how much later harvest has been this year than in other recent years. The first Pinot Noir pick is a good marker for us, because it always comes from the same small vineyard. We're more than two weeks later than our 2013-2017 average, though not as far behind as what we saw the historically cool back-to-back 2010 and 2011 vintages.
Although we've seen a brief warmup the last few days, it's been quite cool, overall, since mid-August, and we're forecast for more cool weather this and next week. So, we may not see things catch up much. That's not worrying, at least not yet. Longer hang times are a good thing, as is the ability to pick at just the right moment, instead of being forced into a pick in the middle of a heat spike. Of course, if we don't catch up at all, and finish harvest still two-plus weeks behind where we've been the last five years, there's a better-than-even chance we'll be harvesting in November. We wouldn't have thought that unusual a recently as a few years ago (between 2000 and 2011 harvest stretched into November six times) but it hasn't happened since 2011. It does appear, as I wrote this summer, that we're looking at something of a throwback vintage.
The slower start to harvest has meant that we've been able to get out and get good samples on most of our early blocks, and we like what we see. Clusters are small but not tiny. The vines appear healthy, recovered after the long mid-summer heat marathon. Numbers are ideal for us at this stage. And the fruit looks great. A bin of Viognier looks fresh and clean:
The fruit in the press smells great, like peaches and flowers, and the rich, yeasty scents of fermentation are beginning to permeate the cellar:
And now that we finally have some red grapes in the cellar, we can really get things going. Please join me in welcoming the 2018 harvest.