State of the Harvest 9-27-10

   We’re about 5 weeks into our harvest here at Asti Winery in Alexander Valley however we’re just really getting into the thick of things this week.  Perhaps some of you read my blog post a few months ago, June to be exact, “Meandering thoughts on the vineyards this season” (http://www.novacadamatre.com/?p=79).  At the very end of this blog post I took a stab at figuring out how the season would progress.  Well it turns out that one end of my prediction seems to be coming true.  Everything seems to be ripening at one time.  This week is the first week we’ve really been staring at a wall of fruit coming our way.  Up to this point we’ve been harvesting mostly Central Valley fruit and while that constitutes a good bit of volume, it does not make up the most complex parts of the harvest. 

Now with those complexities upon us in the form of barrel fermented Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs produced in open top fermentors, and a myriad of Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot produced with different fermentation temperatures, yeasts, and skin contact times.  For me, this is the really fun part of harvest but this year we will be fighting for tank space as well.  From chatting with my other wine industry friends this seems to be a common theme throughout Napa and Sonoma Counties.  The hot weather we’re seeing now is serving as both a boon and a bane as the sugars are beginning to spike in many varieties.  Russian River Chardonnay is very close to picking, likely this weekend or early next week.  This is normally one of the last Chardonnay vineyards to pick however this year it’s one of the earlier ones. 

Botrytis has reared its ugly head once again with the bit of moisture we picked up last week but most growers seem to be controlling it well through treatments and canopy management.  Acids overall are high and yields are down.  So far we’ve seen anywhere from 15-30% below average tonnage.  We’re just starting to get into the more northern counties of Lake and Mendocino with some Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc showing up in the near future.  Overall it’s been a smooth harvest so far however I feel a change in the tides this week.  We’re about to be up to our eyeballs in grapes. I think the next three weeks are going to fly by and we’ll all put our heads up at the end and think “Is it really the end of October already?”

On the tasting note side I’ve been very pleased to be drinking some really nice wines lately.  For a friend’s wedding this past weekend we shared a vintage 2000 Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque which was lovely.  It was very toasty with hints of floral notes and light citrus (Light and Bubbly).  The other tasting highlight of the past two weeks has been a 1994 Penfold’s St. Henri Cabernet-Shiraz blend (Power Punch with Spicy and Smoky notes).  I was amazed at the color that still persisted in this wine.  It still had tints of purple on the rim and the fruit was mostly still primary and fresh notes of black cherries, blackberries, and spices.  It had only just begun to show more tertiary bottle aged notes of mission figs.  This one had a lot of life left in it.

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