Picking!

It’s Saturday September 23rd and already the first week of harvest has whizzed by!  We started picking this past Monday (September 18th) with Hyde Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc.  We got about 2/3rds of our total tonnage picked.  Most of the newer creek block we picked out, we just left a few vines that seemed to be a little bit behind, and the old block which seemed to be a little behind flavor wise.  We are scheduled to pick the rest of it on Wednesday the 27th.  The fruit looks really good, and I’m happy with all the numbers.  As of now, what we picked is cozy in barrels fermenting away and smelling really lovely.  There’s no better time for Sauvignon Blanc than the early part of fermentation because it smells so good.

The picking of the SB went well, we happened to be the only one on Larry Hyde’s pick that day.  So everything went smoothly.  We had Shana Dilworth from Campton Place come and help that day.  Shana and Tracy were on the trailers picking the leaves out of the bins as the grapes were picked.  It’s important to get the stuff we don’t want in the wine out at that point.  We got it all pressed and had a great time in the process.

The next day (September 19th) we went after the Frediani Merlot (clone 181) which was nice and ready to go.  We picked 6 tons, which wasn’t as much as last year, but you wouldn’t expect as much as last year.  It was still a good crop though, very beautiful crop, and I know Jim was proud of it.  I’m really looking forward to making it into wine. 

We had Shana back that day along with our friend Chris Hendrix come by and help.  I still have two blocks at Frediani that I haven’t picked yet, another Merlot and a Cabernet Franc.  So I sent Shana, Chris and Tracy (Skippy) off to do some sampling while I was watching the Merlot pick.  We looked at the numbers together and talked about what they saw and tasted and what we see as we crush the sample berries up.  (How brown the seeds are, how far they have moved along since the last sample, how much they are moving per day, what the weather is coming up.)  We talked about all these things to make a picking decision.  I could tell from that sampling that we were getting close on the Cab Franc, and a little bit more time was needed on the Merlot.  I knew that the Franc was going to be coming this next week, so I scheduled a day with Jim.  I just went by this morning to double check that it was moving the way we wanted and that we actually did want to pick on the scheduled day.

Speaking of double checking picks, I had scheduled the last pick of the Sauvignon Blanc to be today, but in double checking it last Wednesday I had decided it could use another 4 days or so.  So we cancelled out of the Saturday pick and went for a Wednesday pick this coming week.  I’ll double check that again this Sunday or Monday just to make sure that the last few grapes out there come as far as I want them to with their flavor.

The Merlot by the way is just awesome!  I tasted it yesterday and today in tank fermenting.  It still hasn’t passed 20 percent sugar, but definitely fermenting away with beautiful fruit flavors and already extracting a lot of color and flavor.  I’m really excited about it.

We also picked the Bressler’s Merlot (one of my clients) on Wednesday.  Chris Hendrix and I did a sample on the blocks still left out at Bressler Vineyards.  We sampled the Petit Verdot, the Cabernet Franc and the Cabernet Sauvignon.  We could tell those were a little ways away from picking.  The Petit Verdot was definitely a little further along, but the Franc and Cab could use a little more time.   I went out there again with Bob and Stacey Bressler on Friday and we sampled again.  The PV is still ahead of the Franc, but I think by next week the Franc will come on.  So we scheduled a pick for next Thursday.  Which I’ll double check this Monday or Tuesday.

We have nice ripening weather, we did have a sort of hot dry wind out of the north starting yesterday morning, which died down a lot and we are in an off shore condition now.  There was a big fire in Yountville between the Veterans Home and Dry Creek road.  It started at 200 acres then went to 400 acres.  Luckily the CDF really had taken the red flag warnings to heart and everyone was on call and came to help so they were able to control it fairly quickly, since it could have been worse.  It’s a rough area, and on the way to the Bressler’s that morning I saw a lot of CDF trucks heading to the fire.  We could see the smoke from the Bressler’s vineyard while we were sampling.  It’s pretty freaky to see it and know there is such a high fire danger.

By Tuesday we should be seeing some fog and cooling, so it will give the vines a break.  The lucky thing about this time of year, most of the time we don’t get too hot, we will be in the 80’s.  But if this happened in the summer time it would get to 100, with drying off shore winds and low relative humidity is a lot harder on the vines.  We are seeing things that were moving 2/10’s a brick are now moving 3/10 a brick or more per day.

This coming week we have Frediani Cab Franc scheduled for Tuesday and the remaining Sauv Blanc scheduled for Wednesday.  We also have Bressler Cab Franc and Petit Verdot scheduled for Thursday.  We have a pretty busy week coming up!  I expect that the rest of the Frediani Merlot will be ready the following week. 

I did go out to the Dead Fred Vineyard just yesterday to give it the first check.  It’s in the Coombsville area which is a little cooler than Calistoga, so it’s a little behind.  I got 22 bricks from my sampling, which means it is probably in the range of 2 ½ to 3 weeks out, depending on the kind of weather we get.  Everything looks good and tastes good out there.  I spoke with Mike Wolf who is farming the vineyard to get on the same page for harvest there.

The Bressler Cabernet Sauvignon is a little ways out, not as far out as Dead Fred.  The Bressler Cab is running a little higher in sugar, closer to 24 brix.  Historically it takes a little longer to get it where we want it, and it doesn’t spike in sugars (a really nice feature) since it’s on old St. George root stock which has plenty of reserves so it doesn’t spike like the younger vines or other root stocks when the weather gets extreme. 

More later!