Pretty hot early-on, so testing our developing systems for warmer climate winemaking: leaving a heavier cropload, protecting from sunburn with good canopy management, pushing normal harvest timing earlier to prevent overripeness, balancing chemistries precisely, unafraid to use tartaric.
We are beginning Harvest 2015 almost two weeks earlier than 2014 and three-plus weeks earlier than the average of September 26th for the last two decades.
We have had a welcome cooling and 3/4th inch of rain to adjust vine chemistries, with warm but not hot weather due for the next week or more. Juices from our initial Pinot blocks are pulling very good color and Chardonnay shows richness with bright acidity.
We have begun with Wind Ridge, Stoller, Ridgecrest and tomorrow Corral Creek, the compactness of ripeness from the heat giving us no obvious sequence vineyard-to-vineyard. So, block sampling is critical. Chad has all sites in great condition and has projections that will give us 390 tons of great fruit.
The harvest crew ranges from Germany to New Zealand to Utah, with youth and energy, but with experience from elsewhere and quickly gained here too, with 10,000 cases of bottling last week helping them limber up. Great group and Wynne, Katie, and Greg pumped to get it done by mid-October!
Weather and Its Implications
We keep wanting to break records, I guess. This is the 4th very warm growing season in a row, continuing to build, with 2015 set to best 2014 in the race for Hot! We began Harvest 2015 on September 1st, and with a mature block, not a first year plantation. But I can’t deny, the fruit is gorgeous, plentiful and impactful. Having just put almost all the 2014 Pinots into bottle last week and knowing how outstanding they look, we’re encouraged by what is flowing in now, no matter how disturbing the long-term prospects are.
Some facts about this record breaking growing season:
- We have had 26 days over 90F this year through August, with 2014 as the record holder having 24 through August;
- The heat began early this year, with June having 9 days over 90F compared to only one day in the prior seven years; June’s average high temperature was 83F compared to an average of the prior 7 years of 72F;
- July’s average high temperature was 88F, the highest in at least the last 20 years, with the last three years progressively higher;
- Through our mid-August milestone parameter, 2015 has seen 1941 cumulative degree days (CDD), the measure we use to accumulate the heat we’ve seen, compared to the average of the last 18 years of 1468 CDD, with the last three years successively beating each other and any prior year; (see the CDD graph to see heat through August)
- Heat accumulation through August is 2225 CDD which exceeds the 19 year average through the end of October (i.e., two months early)!