The Cabernet, here at the winery, tastes about as sweet as table grapes right now (between 15 and 20% sugar) and we’re about a week out from harvesting our first grapes of the season next week. The Chenin Blanc will probably come in over Labor Day weekend. With the warm weather we’re having right now, it could turn out to be a very busy weekend. The Sauvignon Blanc is close, and so is the Cab up at Howell Mountain.
Last time we checked in veraison, the color change, was just getting underway. Since then, I’ve done quite a bit of leaf thinning, to improve light exposure to the clusters, and also some cluster thinning.
Dropping unripe clusters on the ground isn’t something I like to do, but it’s important that we have even ripening throughout the vineyard and, if some of the clusters are lagging behind, they’ll add green, unripe flavor to the wine. So – off they come – it’s called a “green harvest”. As I check each vine, it’s also an opportunity to assess the crop level, overall. I need to make sure that the vines aren’t carrying more fruit than they can ripen with a high degree of flavor intensity and sometimes thinning is the answer.
Valley wide, harvest began the third week of August with the sparkling wine grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier). Then, a few wineries reported receiving some Sauvignon Blanc the week of the 24th, so it looks like we’re about a week to 10 days behind last year. Yields look about normal (whatever that means) and much improved over last year.
The growing season, as a whole, has been very cool and mild, punctuated by a few heat blasts here and there – just what we need. The cool conditions keep the grapes from getting sweet too fast and give us a good shot at the extended “hangtime” we need for peak flavor development. The heat assures us that we’ll get enough sugar to actually harvest and make well-balanced wine. If things continue as they have, we’re looking at a potentially outstanding harvest. Keep your fingers crossed!