Without rushing or compromising picking timing decisions, we’ve now completed Harvest 2006, with the exception of a solitary Riesling vineyard block standing sentinel at the top of Corral Creek, watching hillsides across the valley disappear into a turbulent gray storm front.
All the Pinot noir has been picked unsullied by rain, disease, birds or poor set. Only higher sugar levels than ideal deviate from perfection.
The Chardonnay fruit exhibited better balance of fruit sugars and acids, especially with us bringing it from differing sites, some higher in elevation, like Ridgecrest, Bethel Heights and Temperance Hill, the last two being the only grapes we bring in that are not Estate Grown–exceptional vineyards who give us Dijon clones for our growing Chardonnay market.
Pinot gris came in early in the harvest with full ripeness, bigger croploads than Pinot noir and excellent flavors, so we’re very pleased with the white side of things. Of course, the acid level will not be as electric as 2005, but it will have good balance.
The Riesling we’ve brought in has been bracketed to give us early and late flavors, plus acid. The Corral Creek Riesling harvested at 7am this morning has amazing flavors of ginger, white fruit and, from about 25% botrytis and raisining, a concentrated confection exclamation.
In the winery we’ve reached the point where, despite exceedingly long days pressing and managing ferments, we can see rapid progress, as fermentors are now being emptied without having to be refilled and as their footprints in the fermentation hall are replaced by barrel racks of fermented and settled wine. A day off per week has still been possible for the winery harvest crew, permanent Chehalem staff excluded, which helps combat weariness. Also, help from friends like Rob and Andrea Chase from Whole Foods in Orlando, Jim Holzgraf, Larry Sink, Hilary Chamberlain Eyres, Rory/Jen/Chris and Clodagh gives a respite, plus welcome chats about something besides grapes.
Small vessels are now filled with small lots of white, such as Rieslings, Pinot blanc and Rose (did I say “white”?). White picking bins and fermentors are now stacking up on the parking lot asphalt, breathing collective sighs from having worked hard for a period and now having a chance to rest. A little like draft horses in pasture after a day plowing. No, I’m not suggesting with that allusion that I or others are ready to be put out to pasture–maybe that we’d like a draft of something though.
Talk soon with a summing up.
We finally get to see what rain looks like again, since only 0.11 inches have fallen to this point in October. The time of month to get rain is not atypical, but where we stand in harvest is. There is only one block yet to pick, having picked our Corral Creek prime Riesling block early this morning before the storm hit. A couple days of dry weather are scheduled for mid-week, followed by a continuation of normal unsettled weather. Fall is here, but we’re ready.