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Aren’t They Purty?

by David on July 24, 2007

They’re showing their true colors. We saw the first tiny blush of color in our Cabernet a little over a week ago, and now they’re going full-tilt toward a purple so deep we’ll call it black. It’s a wonder! And they’re so purty…

wine grape veraison

The vines are sending a direct message to our Winemaker, Geoff Gorsuch. They’re saying that they’re headed for the barn. They’re saying in no uncertain terms that their energy has shifted from shoot development into fruit ripening and to pay attention, y’all!

The greenest, firmest grapes read just below 6 degrees brix (brix translates roughly to percentage of sugar) and aren’t much fun to taste at all – kind of like an extremely sour blade of grass. The darkest, softest are at about 15 degrees (when you buy grapes at the grocery store, they’re usually between 15 and 20% sugar). Not too tart, but not very flavorful yet, either.

grape cluster

So, it’s happening! Soon, it will be time for Geoff to to start “sampling” the vineyard to check the sugar, acid and pH. Once he sees an average sugar of about 20%, he’ll begin tasting for flavor maturity, knowing that he’ll end up picking at somewhere between 22 and 26 or 27%, a very big window. Within those parameters, flavor is the over-riding factor.

winemaker sampling Brix

If the weather cooperates, the flavors will be right where he wants them just as the sugar, acid and pH fall into place. That’s called a good year.

Every region has its gripes, and ours is usually heat. If we have a lot of hot weather, the sugars race ahead of the flavor maturity, making Geoff’s harvest decision more difficult. It’s far from the worst thing that can happen, but it’s something to be reckoned with. Our European counterparts are usually more concerned that the weather won’t be warm enough to get enough sugar before the rains come. For instance, they’re having a dickens of a time with rain in Bordeaux the last few weeks and hail in the Rhone and Alsace last month, something that’s almost unheard of this time of year in sunny Napa Valley. So, we all meet in the middle.

Anyway, we have to enjoy these beautiful, blushing grapes for the few days they’re in this lovely stage of “veraison” because before you know it, it will be time to go get’em! Cheers!

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