Tag Archives: Vineyards

Harvest 2014: Week 3 – To Kalon I Block

I was walking vineyards this morning but it was a little like walking into a time machine.  Instead of highly manicured, neat rows, I was trudging through a jungle-like atmosphere.  The vines surrounding me are grisly and ancient with long twisting arms swirling like frozen maelstroms.  The fruit is hidden beneath umbrella-like canopies, some green, some golden, all delicious.

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I have great respect for living things.  I have even greater respect for living things that have survived on this earth for longer than I have.  I’m referring to the grizzled, time tested vines of To Kalon’s I Block.  Planted in 1945, this may be the oldest planting of Sauvignon Blanc in North America.  They are head trained, dry farmed (non-irrigated) behemoths with crusty, cracking trunks and erratically shifting arms.  This morning I had the distinct pleasure of walking through I Block with fellow winemaker, Rich Arnold.  California is in a drought; a REALLY BAD drought.  None of the vines in I Block have seemed to notice very much.  There are a few yellowing basal (leaves at the base of the canes down near the fruit) leaves here and there but for the most part this block looks completely unaware, as if to say “Drought? What drought?”  The leaves are green and happy, facing the sun this morning since the fog has cleared early today.  The fruit is unbelievably concentrated and complex with flavors of melons, spices, flowers, and fresh herbs.  That is even before more complex aromas will be unlocked and unleashed during the fermentation process.

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I Block will be picked this week.  The flavors and the acids are approaching the right balance and the sugar is along for the ride in this block.  It is usually a very restrained Brix level, generally under 23 Brix.  This year looks no different.  It seems to have escaped the stresses that the irrigated Sauvignon Blanc are showing this year lending credence to the theory that dry farmed vines are not as affected by vintage variation as irrigated ones.  I’m looking forward to working with this fruit in the winery and understanding more about how the team here brings out the amazing characters that are already clearly apparent in the fruit.

Robert Mondavi Winery 2011 To Kalon I Block Fume Blanc* 

Personality: Unbelievably Unique

Aromas of ginger, white flowers, chalk, and dry herbs. Bright acid, dry palate with full body and intense flavors of lime zest, melons, fresh peach, spices, and minerals with a long finish.  Amazing wine!

* Disclosure: For those of you who don’t know, I am one of the winemakers for Robert Mondavi Winery and generally avoid posting tasting notes for wineries that I work for however this is a very special wine and posting the note tied in with the harvest blog this week so I chose to do so.

 

 

Pruning

This week I found time to get out in To Kalon and work a bit. The fastest way to get to know a vineyard is to work in it. Moving through the rows with steady purpose and rhythmic cutting you start to get a feel for the strong and weak areas. The undulating rises and dips in the ground where frost or water may settle at various times in the season. I only had time for a little but so I started in Monastery with our vineyard manager Matt Ashby.

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This particular block of Monastery is Reserve Sauvignon Blanc that is spur pruned and cordon trained.

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We’re leaving two buds per spur so that there will be two fruitful shoots this next season per position.

When you are pruning you take between 90-95% of last years growth off. I’ve taken a before and after shot below.

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This was my first time pruning To Kalon. It’s a little daunting knowing what this vineyard is capable of but you still have to make the cuts reasonably fast. I found out two things; I still know what cuts to make but I’m A LOT slower than I used to be when I was pruning more often. Good pruners can prune close to or above 100 vines per hour. I was around 30 vines per hour which is embarrassingly pathetic from where I was three springs ago when I pruned last. It just goes to show you, if you don’t use it you lose it! The vines are bleeding profusely so budbreak will be shortly upon us and with it the beginning of my vintage note updates for 2014!

Vintage 2013 – Week 1; The Beginning

Week 1 of harvest is upon us. That’s not saying we’re getting fruit this week but that the season is upon us. For those of you who have followed a vintage with me before, you know I start week 1 with the first week in August and it continues for the next 14 weeks. This is an early year so far. 2004 was the warmest in recent years and we are knocking on that record already. The nights recently have been cool leading to foggy mornings and warm sunny afternoons. We have Sauvignon Blanc at 21 Brix and saw our sister winery, Franciscan, bring in their first fruit today. Needless to say we are very close to bringing in fruit ourselves. I’m daring to hope for a clear Halloween this year without having to worry about which vineyards will be hanging out through it.
In the vineyards, Veraison is almost complete in To Kalon with almost black bunches in every block. The Malbec was particularly interesting today with super dark color already at only 14 Brix. It looks like it will be a very interesting year if the weather holds.
At home, our pears are coming ripe and the tomatoes and zucchini have been prolific! Bring on the baked zucchini with fresh tomatoes, oregano, basil, and mozzarella cheese! I love this time of year because it is a time of great possibility from the vintage and fantastic fresh foods.

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See you next week!