There is no more sugar growth in grapes with cold nights and sunny but still cool days, so the benefit all comes from hangtime on the vines. Flavors are finally arriving and initial fermentation cuvees show nice color extraction, very nice acid/pH numbers and decent sugar levels. Some lots may exhibit brighter acids than normal, but that’s exciting. We may chaptalize, but that is not certain at this point, not having done so yet in this harvest with early lots.
The first two Pinot noir ferments will be pressed out Wednesday and Thursday, perfect timing for logistics of having a home for final Pinot noir blocks scheduled to be picked Wednesday. Chardonnay juice from prime blocks at Stoller have been pressed and are being barreled down to begin fermentation as soon as the chilling tunnel is ready to be converted to what it is the majority of the year–white wine barrel cellar. Chilling is critical to fruit quality preservation, but in as late a year as 2011 we often scratch our head about just leaving outside under cover to experience the freezing level natural cooling. Some we have.
Riesling and Gruner veltliner will hang awhile longer, per usual and in respect for Germanic heritage of these varieties.
Smugly, I feel confident enough in the overall quality of 2011 vintage to wag my finger at the Cassandran warnings and woe-is-me pre-assessment of media and other observers who denounced the vintage BEFORE a single grape was picked. I still contend, as I have all along, the probability of having a great vintage after a delayed, cool growing season is greater than having a poor vintage. This 2011 may indeed be comparable to 1993, 1999, 2008 and other stellar vintages born late.
It’s up to us to not screw up very interesting, high quality fruit and realize the potential for a great vintage.
Weather and Its Implications
Mother Nature must like the normal work week, giving us a breather picking on Saturday and Sunday because of Friday night and Sunday rain showers, 0.? inches total, enough to wet clusters but not hurt them. Once dried by clearing Sunday afternoon and night, picking Ridgecrest proper began Monday, October 31st, to end by Wednesday getting all Pinot noir, Pinot gris and Gamay noir. Weather was clear, sunny and mid-fifties during the days so-far, beginning with fog, frost and freezing temperatures 30-33F.
With rains forecast Wednesday night and Thursday, we’ve run long days in the vineyard and winery, hitting harvest and processing records for Chehalem in the process.