The last week has seen major grape harvesting of those vineyard blocks that needed more time for flavors to develop. On the cusp of botrytis beginning, we’ve picked all fruit with the exception of a nicely sound higher elevation Chardonnay block and three Riesling blocks that need and can take a week or more hangtime, whether damp or dry.
Rainfall has been the prime mover this Harvest, especially over the last two weeks, but with less impact in my assessment than we would have guessed just from rainfall amounts.
- Fruit is largely nicely ripe, but with reduced sugar levels, which will equate to lower alcohols.
- Acids are moderate to high, but a disproportionately large amount of malic acid, which will be converted in ML for barreled wines like Pinot Noir.
- Counter intuitively, despite good initial acids, we are actually adjusting acids as we anticipate the fall later-on, plus on higher elevation fruit like Ridgecrest, which had a little less time to ripen, we are prepared to adjust sugar levels slightly as we get them fermenting.
As always, experience tells us not to freak out about dreary rain days, but to drink another cup of coffee, continue to pick on flavors and jump only when botrytis seems ready to show.
The characteristics of this vintage for Pinot Noir will be less alcohol, less blackness, more finesse rather than extraction, possibly even better ageability, and more memories of being miserable in cool and damp conditions, memories that will fade as the wines in barrel warm us.
White wines should show better balance than warmer years, so long as there is full ripeness, which we’ve so far seemed to get, and very nice acids, especially for stainless fermented versions.
So far, I’m encouraged.
After ten days of less than a tenth inch of rain per day, including 3-4 bone dry and sunny, today we’re living in a cloud, as fog and cooler temperatures presage several days of rain coming in the next week.
This has been a damp year, but still not in the league with the last very difficult rain-affected year, 1997. So far, using the McMinnville weather station data as a source, 2007 has had 2.38 inches of rain between September 15th and October 15th, with 2.03 inches in the October days. On the average over the last thirty years (1971-2000) those amounts recorded 1.91 and 0.98 inches, respectively, reflecting challenges for final ripening and a lack of Indian summer conditions; in 1997, these two rainfall amounts were 5.98 and 4.43 inches, obviously in a different league of its own. Even 2005 showed significant rainfall, with more focused on early periods, at 4.44 inches for Sept 15-Oct 15, 1.72 for October 1-15.