Sorry to have been gone for so long, but days are only so long and an avalanche of fruit has required us to attend to business, bringing in almost 100 tons, mostly Pinot noir.
Pinot noir yields have been close to perfect, with Corral Creek 2 to 2 1/2 tons per acre, Ridgecrest 1.5 to 2, and Stoller 2 1/2 to 3, on average. The late bloom has pushed us into the rainy period at Ridgecrest in order to get required full 105+ day ripening, our latest-harvested, highest elevation vineyard site being most vulnerable. For fruit to be perfectly ripe, we’ve had to endure the beginnings of botrytis, a mold we welcome in riesling, but try to avoid in Chardonnay, Pinot gris, and Pinot noir. In whites, where fermentation is completed without skins, there is little impact. In reds, where fermentation proceeds on-skin for two weeks or more, we have to sort with great care to exclude as much compromised fruit as possible.
With that extra work and some grumblings from Mike and me about the first imperfect vintage in awhile, we are pleased at this stage with our decisions to wait it out. Early fermentations are impressively dark and rich, as we are now beginning to press-out and barrel down Stoller lots.
Melissa Burr, winemaker at our sister winery at Stoller Vineyards, has just completed bringing in the first harvest to their new winery, with 60 tons of fruit. The facility had a relatively smooth maiden voyage, with all elements of the fruit processing complete and construction on the rest of the building continuing–fruit and hard-hats doing a ballet.
Over the next three days we will bring in the rest of Ridgecrest (Chardonnay, Pinot gris and 7-Acre Block Pinot noir, Gamay noir) and the Stoller Riesling, leaving only Corral Creek Riesling to outlast rain for ultimate finesse and richness.
Mid to upper sixties over the next three days or so, with no rain. It will be nice weather in which to pick remaining blocks of fruit, especially with conditions good for growing botrytis in ripe and compromised fruit. From then on, rain is expected on-and-off in a normal Fall mode, so, with the exception of part of the Riesling chancing hanging out to drop acids and hoping for a week of drying to optimize botrytis concentration, everything is off in the next couple days.
Average highs so far this month at Stoller Vineyards is 64 DegF, with 48 DegF average lows for the first ten days of the month, followed by 52 DegF the last half of the month, the warming speeding fruit deterioration and requiring assiduous sorting in the winery. Rain so far this month is 1.1 inches and, with the last couple days of September’s output of 1.3 inches, makes for an old-days harvest challenge over three weeks.