This morning I was standing on the crushpad talking to Chelsea. I asked her whether the fermentations had started on the grapes we picked last week. She said that they were just getting going, and mentioned that the plan was to bring the barrels outside so that they could benefit from some of the heat when it warms up. Then she looked at the sky, still densely overcast, and corrected herself: "If it warms up."
The overcast did start to break up at lunchtime, though as of 1:30pm it was still as much clouds as sun in the sky and our temperatures were still only in the low-70s. I got a photo I love, looking up from underneath the canopy of our Bourboulenc block toward that still-mostly-cloudy sky:
In a normal harvest, an overcast day like this would be a rare treat and a chance to catch up after several days of sustained heat. But not in 2023. We haven't had a single 100°F day in the last month, a period in which our average high has been 85.8°F, more than 5°F lower than the long-term average of 91.1°F. We haven't even had a day hit 90°F in the last two weeks. Most of those days have started with several hours of overcast. The full picture since veraison:
The next week looks similar, with forecast highs in the upper 70s and lower 80s. And there's no big warm-up coming; today's ag forecast suggests that we're looking at below-average to average temperatures through the end of September.
How big a deal is this? Maybe it's actually a good thing. I know I'd definitely prefer this to hundred-degree temperatures. It's not like it's in the 50s°F and 60s°F every day. The grapevines are photosynthesizing. Sugars are rising, and acids are falling. Even better, acids are falling slowly, which is giving us something like dream chemistry in the samples we're taking. The vines are thriving in this moderate climate, and looking back at previous years (like September 2014, for example) drives home just how much greener the foliage is now than we're used to seeing in September, which bodes well for their ability to withstand this marathon.
What this weather is doing is shifting our risks from the beginning of harvest to the end. At some point, these low pressure troughs that are bringing this overcast weather will start to come with real moisture and rain. If we're still in the middle of picking -- particularly if we're still picking thin-skinned grapes like Grenache -- that could be a problem. If it's chilly during the harvest season, that will likely mean that our fermentations, which are all done with native yeasts, will likely take longer to complete. But that's a problem for future Tablas Creek. For now, we'll take it. And if you're visiting in the next few weeks, you're in for a treat.