The Kenwood Press
: 11/01/2012

Journey to Harvest

Journey complete

George MacLeod


Grapes awaiting harvest at Indian Springs Ranch. Javier says, “You will see us again in a great bottle of Zinfandel!” Photo by Jay Gamel.
My definition of happiness is when the last full gondola of grapes drives out our front gate and heads for the winery. This happened for us this year at 2:30 in the afternoon of Oct. 23. It means a year's work is complete. All its joy, optimism, hard work, good and bad vibes are now wonderful memories in our ranch saga. My wife Greta and I have often commented that this annual end-of-harvest scene produces a feeling not unlike when we sent our first child off to school.

The grapes will return and will have been changed by the magic of the winemaker into a beverage that will gladden the hearts of men - and women too! And all our work in progress will have changed into 'accounts receivable' on our account books. Good Times!

The result for this year is a wonderful, large crop, the best in a decade and maybe one of the largest in county history. As this is being written there are still tons of grapes not being picked because all the winery tanks are full and there is literally no place for the grapes to go. Some space will be found as the fermented wine is moved into barrels and of course there is a shortage of barrels too. Some picking crews are idle waiting for space to be found. The experts tell me that by the first week of November, win, lose, or draw, the harvest and journey for vintage 2012 will be complete.

Now let's get a final post-harvest report from our resident “spokesvines” - Marie for the Sauvignon Blanc and Javier for our Zinfandel vines.

Marie's Sauvignon Blanc Report

This year, the old Patron made a real effort to get an early estimate of vintage 2012 crop size - counting and recounting our immature bunches during the growing season. Now optimism is the old Patron's middle name, and he went ahead and sold more grapes than his own audit indicated. We vines knew his estimate was low, but it was to his great surprise our actual crop turned out a full 50 percent above his audit! This year, the Patron's optimism paid off and he was able to find homes for all but about 300 pounds of our crop. Needless to say all of our vines are really happy and already thinking of vintage 2013.

Javier's Zinfandel Report

The November issue of Sunset Magazine brought a most welcome surprise. It recommends our 2010 Zinfandel as a perfect wine to complement your Thanksgiving dinner. All the Zinfandel vines join me in shouting out a big “way to go” to our winemakers Clay and Richard.

The Zinfandel vines are really happy with this year's crop. All our grapes are picked and we've turned in a volume increase of about 20 percent. Nonetheless, we somehow feel we missed a chance to grab the brass ring and do much better. Mid-year audits showed a super crop with spectacular bunches that at harvest would be something special, so that we could have a yield increase of 40 to 50 percent! In mid-July all was on track. Then Mother Nature threw one of her unexpected negative cards at us - day and night time temperatures during the months of August and September were significantly lower than normal.

Those of you living here in wine country know that grape maturity, the accumulation of sugar (measured in brix), color and flavors is a function of photosynthesis, and that this works best for us vines between temperatures of 70 to 90 degrees. Hence with cool weather plus the shorter days, the number of hours each day at this optimum temperature range was significantly decreased. Almost the entire month of September our sugar (brix) level held steady at around 19 to 19.5 percent. Normally we would have expected it to increase one to two percent a week. By early October we began to see our sugar slowly increasing but this was from dehydration of our individual grape berries. With shorter days and slow photosynthesis, flavors developed very slowly. By the third week in October our flavors finally came around and we were able to be harvested. But by that time we had lost by dehydration 20 to 30 percent of our weight.

We may have missed the brass ring, but it hard to call vintage 2012 anything other than a huge success. Our winemaker Clay is happy. Our fellow vines are happy. The Old Patron and manager Chuy are happy. Son John is happy. And it's time to start thinking of vintage 2013.