Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sierra Foothills Harvest News: Ironstone Vineyards, Murphys/Calaveras County

Joan Kautz, Vice President, International Operations at Kautz Family Vineyards in Murphys/Calaveras County, CA (part of Ironstone Vineyards) sends along this information about their ongoing harvest activities:

Verdelho grapes,
Ironstone Vineyards harvest 
“Our Verdelho grapes were harvested on September 27. Brix at harvest was 25.2, fruit quality is very good with a nice acid balance and nice mature flavors in the grapes. This is the same field and specs as the Tempranillo. 

Tempranillo grapes,
Ironstone Vineyards harvest
We will soon harvest our Tempranillo, as these grapes are now at 22 brix. We’ve had good cooperation from the weather, which is currently features 90 degree days and mid 50's at night. This Tempranillo vineyard was planted in 2005 and in its third harvest.”

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sierra Foothills Harvest Update: Andis Wines (Amador County)

Mark McKenn, Winemaker and General Manager at Andis Wines in Plymouth, Amador County, Sierra Foothills, California, sends this harvest update:

"It has been very much a “hurry up and wait” harvest for us so far. 
Off to an early start picking our two Sauvignon Blanc fields on the 30th and 31st of August, those picks were quickly followed by Semillon, Chenin Blanc, and Rose (a blend of Zinfandel and Barbera). The crew worked hard to process all those tons while preparing for the eminent deluge of reds.  
Then we waited, and waited, and are still waiting for the reds to come along to the desired maturity.
Whether it is the above average crop loads or that small rainstorm we had or a combination of factors,  the reds have just been stubborn. That said, the vineyards look amazing, incredibly sound and healthy fruit, minimal raisins, and the canopies are holding up well.
All this waiting will be but a distant memory by the end of next week. We have Merlot, Barbera, Zinfandel, Primitivo, and probably Syrah all slated to come in to the winery next week. Time to dust off the punch down tools…… "

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hang Time at Rancho Olivo Vineyards: Listening to Grapes in the Sierra Foothills

Nello Olivo, the owner of Rancho Olivo Vineyards and Nello Olivo Wines in El Dorado County, Sierra Foothills, sends this interesting perspective on harvest and hangtime:

"The grape harvest is coming soon, and one of the most important decisions we make as winemakers involves hang time—how long to let the grapes hang on the vine.

The grapes look ripe. If I were a wine-grower interested in making the most money selling my grapes by weight, I might pick them soon. The longer fruit hangs, the more moisture it loses, and the lighter  in weight it gets.

But I don't care about weight. I care about giving the best flavor and highest qualities to my wine. The longer I let the grapes hang (without rain or irrigation), the more intense and full will be the flavor of the wine.

Knowing the right moment for harvesting is a tricky decision based partly on science, on the weather, on the style of wines I prefer to create,  and also based on experience and old-fashioned instinct.

The science part comes in testing the grapes for acidity (pH) and for sugar content. As long as the pH stays below 3.60 and the sugar content  under 25 brix, I'm likely to let the fruit hang. And I use all my senses as well to help make the crucial decision of when to pick. How the grapes look, the texture of the pulp, the dryness of the seed, skin color and tightness of the fruit cluster.  And of course, the big one: how the fruit tastes.

I rely on my trusted team, including Lance Johnson, vineyard operations manager, and Marco Cappelli, winemaker. We'll monitor the status of the grapes every day, sometimes more than once.

Hang time in the vineyard is like those last couple of weeks before a baby is born. It's a time full of anticipation, of paying attention to every little sign, and of being ready in every possible way.
Each varietal is different. Each section of the vineyard is different. Each year is different. You have to know your vineyard intimately, and you  have to be patient and listen to it "talk" to you.

All over California right now, harvesting teams are standing ready, waiting for the call to pick. When the grapes tell me it's time, I'll make the call."

More information about Nello Olivo wines, from their website:

Nello Olivo wines are produced by Rancho Olivo Vineyards, owned and operated by Nello and Danica Olivo in Cameron Park, California.

Old-world Dream

The Olivos have chosen to grow old-world style grapes—particularly those common to regions of Italy, Nello's ancestral home—which flourish in the California Sierra Foothills terroir and climate.
"A lifelong dream of mine," says Nello, "has been to grow my own grapes and produce my own wine. That's exactly what my grandfather did who came from the old country. It's a passion in me. It's probably in my blood. When I'm doing that, I feel like a happy little kid!"

New-world Excellence

If Nello's wines succeed in expressing that joy, it's because of his exacting care over every aspect of wine production. Combining hand-tended tradition with the best of new-world care, his vineyard is recognized as one of the best managed in the region. And his grapes are acclaimed among the highest quality available. The proof is in the gold and double-gold medals won by wineries who use his grapes in their own wines.
Rancho Olivo Vineyards is a true boutique winery, producing less than 100 cases of each varietal annually. This makes Nello Olivo wines true sought-after treasures by those who have discovered its qualities.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sierra Foothills/Ed Dorado County Harvest Report: Cedarville Vineyard (Fair Play)

Jonathan Lachs, who with Susan Marks is owner/winemaker of CedarvilleVineyard in Fair Play, El Dorado County, Sierra Foothills of California, sends these harvest notes:

Zinfandel clusters, Sept 2012,
Cedarville Vineyard,  El Dorado County
“Activity is picking up quickly here in our Cedarville Estate vineyard.  Throughout our vineyard, we’re experiencing even ripening with targeted pick dates closer to historical “averages” or as we often say, “normal”.  It’s been a few years since we’ve had normal pick dates, with 2009, 2010, and 2011 all later-to-much later than normal. 

We harvested Syrah grapes for Hank Beckmeyer and Caroline Hoel’s La Clarine Farm rosé on Saturday, September 8th,  as well as some Viognier for one of their white blends.  They make wines with little intervention beyond a touch of sulfur before bottling (some folks call them “Natural Wines”), and they are terrific expressions of where they are grown.

At Cedarville, we now plan to pick our first Syrah grapes at the end of the week.  Our Syrah always seems to ripen first due to lower yields and its higher elevation on our property. 

Our highest elevation Zin is coming along, too, and we’re targeting September 20th pick date. 

One trend we’re experiencing this year in our Estate vineyard is grape physiological maturity at lower than usual sugar levels.  We usually associate this with cooler years, and means we may not need wait for higher sugar levels to achieve desired flavors, which means potentially lower alcohols in the subsequent wines.  Never a bad thing.  We’ll need to wait and see if it truly plays out this way."



Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sierra Foothills/Calaveras County Harvest Report: Frog's Tooth (Murphys)

Gary Grant, winemaker at Frog's Tooth Vineyards, Murphys, Calaveras County/Sierra Foothills makes these observations:

"2012 is shaping up to be one of our best years yet at Frog's Tooth Vineyards.

Sauvignon Blanc just before 2012 harvest,
Calaveras County/Murphys
Our crop is looking very good. We have already harvested our sauvignon blanc; we may have been the first in the foothills. Brix was 23, pH was 3.4, TA was 6.5.

We next thinned the fruit from our  Grenache and Petite Sirah vines.

We harvested our viognier last Thursday, and got 7 tons ... our best harvest yet!"

NB:  Frog's Tooth has just gone through a website re-design.   I like the motto that is foremost on their home page:  "If wine can have legs, then frogs can have teeth."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sierra Foothills/Nevada County: Harvest Report from Smith Vineyards (Grass Valley)

Christina Smith of Smith Vineyard, Grass Valley, Sierra Foothills/Nevada County writes:

Primitivo veraison
"Our reds have completed veraison and our Chardonnay looks like it will be ready to harvest in 1 to 2 weeks.  We are monitoring the sugar content daily.  We are dropping fruit, especially the Primitivo.  This insures quality over quantity.

It has been a great spring and summer.  As far as the crop goes, we couldn't ask for better.  We didn't lose any fruit this past spring ( no frost) and survived the hail storm in May. The reds were not in bloom yet and the Chardonnay was through bloom. Yes amazing!  One of the thrills of farming is living in an awareness that we really control so little when it comes to weather."


More about Smith Vineyard:

The Smith Vineyard is located in the Sierra Foothills town of Grass Valley, California at an elevation of 2500 feet.

Smith Vineyard produces hand crafted, small-lot estate wines. Our 10 acre vineyard is planted in premium varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Primitivo, Syrah and Chardonnay. Dr. Wayne Smith fulfilled his desire to farm when he planted the first vineyard block in 1980, Wayne's dedication to organic farming soon followed.

The winery began operation in 1987. The winery is housed in a restored barn that dates back to the early 1900's, it is surrounded by a rich canopy of pines and heritage oaks.

Today... Wayne's grandsons, the third generation, work alongside their parents, Gary and Chris, in the operation of the Vineyard and Winery.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sierra Foothills/Nevada County Harvest Continues: Sierra Starr Winery (Grass Valley)

Phil Starr of Sierra Starr Vineyard and Winery,  located in Grass Valley, Nevada County/Sierra Foothills CA, sends these notes and photos:

“Harvest 2012 has begun here at Sierra Starr.  Two days ago we brought in the first of the Sauvignon Blanc grapes.  After processing, the juice analysis was right on at 23 brix and pH of 3.3.  Juice flavors were truly wonderful.  We will bring in the remaining Sauvignon Blanc grapes tomorrow.

We are looking for the Chardonnay, from Clarksburg, early next week.

Next up after the Sauvignon from our vineyard will be the first of the Zinfandels; harvest for the Zins will span at least a month as the different blocks mature.”


MORE ABOUT SIERRA STARR: Sierra Starr produces 2,500 cases and farms 15 acres just outside Grass Valley. Among their wines are Sauvignon Blanc, Un-Oaked Chardonnay, Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, Three Zinfandels (including Zinjolais), Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Bubblies, Inertia, the always- favorite Jack’s Blend and "Five Starr Port".   The Starrs bought an existing vineyard in 1995 with the intent of moving their flower growing nursery from the Monterey Bay area onto the vacant land on the parcel.  The nursery didn't move but Phil felt the challenge of grape growing and making fine wine was one dream that he couldn't pass up.  


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sierra Foothills/Nevada County Veraison and Harvest Reports: Solune Winery (Grass Valley)

Harvest is almost here in Nevada County, Sierra Foothills.  Winemaker and owner Jacques Mercier of Solune Winery, Grass Valley, is getting ready.  He writes:

“I was busy dropping fruit and pulling leaves over Labor Day weekend.  You can see some very flavorful Sauvignon Blanc in this picture which could be ready pretty soon (next week ?).

Two weeks ago, most of our varietals started véraison (except Cabernet Franc), with Tempranillo, true to its name (Tempranillo means "a little early" in Spanish), completely turned.  Although that might have seemed early compared to last two (cool) years,  we are actually back on track versus pre-2010 harvests. 

The 100-degree-ish heat wave of mid August slowed down ripening (vines go into survival mode when approaching 100, slowing down, and sometimes stopping, ripening).

 The big challenge for us will be uniformity, with a completely turned cluster often next to yet to turn cluster.  We might need to do multiple picks.

Here’s a August 13 photo of a Tempranillo cluster that Jacque followed since July 31 through its color changing véraison.  “Well, it's all purple now, getting softer & fruitier every day (and gradually erasing any vegetal character of its younger days),”  he wrote on his Facebook page.  Jacques has done a great job on his Facebook page of keeping his fans updated on the progress of veraison.  Have a look: