The harvest continues
At months’ end we have picked almost all of our Sauvignon Blanc, and all of our Merlot. We have about a ton and a half of Sauvignon Blanc left over, beyond what our clients wanted. We are keeping this, as we plan to experiment making a small sample of a late harvest dessert wine or perhaps a Sauterne.
Recall that our vine budwood can be traced to Chateau d’Yquem in Bordeaux. They make super Sauterne that retails for fantastic prices.
First the good news. We are about half way through the harvest for vintage 2013 with great quality, size and pricing. The small amount of rain at the end of September did little damage.
Now some major worries. The lack of a new immigration bill from Congress has us heading for a serious labor shortage. This is showing up in the current harvest. Our vineyard manager Chuy has been operating all season with a crew headcount 30 to 40 percent below normal. We still have about 50 percent to go to complete our harvest, and normally we would complete this picking with just Chuy’s crews, but this year we have been forced to use portions of three other crews.
The issue with harvests is that the grapes need to be picked at the optimum quality of brix, fruit acid and flavors. This optimum time lasts just a few days and varies to some degree for each individual winemaker. When our winemaking clients say the grapes are ready, we move heaven and earth to get them picked. A note of humor here. When beginning wine makers take classes on grape maturity the teacher will often ask, “How do you know when the grapes are mature and ready?” resulting in a dozen opinions – all wrong! The right answer is, “When your winemaking client says the grapes are ready!” Huge stress for the vineyard owner!
And still another issue is that we have seven clients all wanting their grapes picked at different times, depending of course on the individual wine makers and their special needs and methods. For our first 20 years or so we shipped almost all our fruit to a single client. Keeping all of these winemakers happy and their grapes picked at optimum quality can separate the men from the boys.
Now a word from our Sauvignon Blanc spokesvine Marie and our Zinfandel spokesvine Javier.
Our 2013 Sauvignon Blanc grapes are picked and all those winemakers have our grapes. By now that lovely juice is fermenting and turning into the magic that will become our wonderful Sauvignon Blanc wine. When the picking army had stripped our bunches from the vines and loaded them into shipping bins, the aromas and tastes of apricot, pineapple, green apple and mango flooded the vineyard. As your vineyard manager, all I can say to you winemakers is that we vines have done our job. You now have the ball; don’t screw up or mess with these wonderful flavors and aromas!
Well, what an insult. Marie already has her grapes in and we still have a few more weeks to go. We have a beautifully balanced crop – large bunches hanging in the fall sun gradually ripening. Our sugars (brix) are moving nicely, but we need some more time for the deep flavors of raspberry, blackberry, and pepper to develop.
Now out of the blue – rain! Thanks to the extra work by Chuy and his army, each of our bunches has been adjusted to be hanging free and clear, and with some warming sun should quickly dry. We need about 14 more days to get the intense flavors and aromas the winemakers want. Some raisined grapes are beginning to appear which means we are close. No more surprise rain storms, please.
The vines’ complaint