I escaped the vineyards and winery and spent the last two days visiting retail and restaurant accounts in Sacramento, the capital of California and a beautiful city. Great food transforms wine, and winemakers make every effort to put their wines into the best restaurants, so I had some great dining experiences there. I left Sacramento late last night and got home early this morning. The nocturnal business of night picking makes unusual schedules and night travel a little easier at this time of year. But maybe it's just that the habits of the vampires on our nighttime picking crew are rubbing off on me?
Gaia Gaja says that the harvest at Pieve Santa Restituta, in Tuscany's Montalcino district, began Sept. 20 and ended Oct. 12--all in all a very fast harvest that resulted in optimal-quality grapes despite some weather concerns leading up to harvest.
Wine Spectator guest blogger and California winegrower Peter Cargasacchi says that Brian Loring waits until the last moment to harvest his 2009 Pinot Noir crop.
Why pick at night? Fruit that is undamaged and cold has a much lower potential for the growth of unwanted microorganisms and for oxidation. Simply put, fruit picked at night or in the cool of the morning makes better wine by giving the winemaker control of the fermentation.
Châteaus du Tertre and Giscours finished harvesting this past Tuesday, and Château Haut-Bailly on Wednesday. Now it's time for the end of harvest parties and some early assessments of the vintage, which looks to be fantastic.
On Monday, with the remnants of a typhoon in the Pacific heading straight toward us, I picked the slightly more than 1-acre parcel of Pinot Noir I grow for Ken Byron Brown. The rainfall total for Tuesday and Wednesday was 2.75 inches. It was a soaker, with no runoff. A little early and poorly timed for both the Pinot Noir and pastures. However, the rain gave me a little more time to spend with my fermenting wines and develop the calluses on my hands doing punch-downs.
The harvest at Ca'Marcanda, in the Bolgheri area of Tuscany, occurred between Sept. 7 and Oct. 6, starting with our experimental white varieties. On Sept. 18, we finished picking the last of the Syrah but still had all of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese left to harvest. However, it started to rain in Bolgheri and continued for five days, dropping a total of 200 mm (8 inches). The rain worried us and, after the fifth day, we thought we faced real trouble. Yet on the sixth day, as if by plan, the rains stopped, good weather resumed and providential northern winds dried the grapes off, preventing mold and preserving the quality of the crop.
At Château Haut-Bailly, we have 70 acres of planted vines on one piece of land, and 15 percent of the vines are more than 100 years old! They are a mix of six different grape varieties-seven-twelfths Cabernet Sauvignon. You can see us harvesting them in this video.
The excitement here in Bordeaux is growing day by day as the Cabernets being brought in also show tremendous potential, like the Merlots, thereby confirming the quality of the vintage. The weather continues to be amazing: Record fall temperatures beat down on Bordeaux! It was 30°C (86°F) on Oct. 6 ... just like in 1929!
There's a big change in the weather coming next week, with rain forecast to arrive late Monday night. It looks like a potentially significant first storm of the season. Hopefully the only thing left on the vines by then will be a 2.5-acre block of clone 115 Pinot Noir that goes to the Loring Wine Company and myself.
It's been a very busy week harvesting Pinot Noir, during the night into morning, to keep the grapes cool.
The 2009 harvest is proceeding very well and progressing quickly. The harvest of Nebbiolo grapes began on Monday, Sept. 21, starting with our vineyards in the Barbaresco district. Since then, picking has been going on every day, with Sundays being the only rest days. If we continue at this pace, weather permitting, we will likely finish this week, one week earlier than last year.
During the first two weeks of September, we enjoyed moderate temperatures, a welcome relief after the heat of August. The afternoon of Sept. 19 brought clouds and a few drops of rain. However, since we started the Nebbiolo harvest, the days have all been sunny and warm, with average temperatures of 25º C (77º F), allowing the grapes in all of our vineyards to fully ripen.
Peter Cargasacchi pulls in two more blocks of Pinot Noir for the 2009 harvest, this time for Brewer-Clifton and Bonaccorsi.
Peter Cargasacchi harvests Dragonette winemaker Brandon Sparks-Gillis Pinot Noir and talks about unorthodox crushing methods and who first brought today's popular Pinot Noir clones to California.
Richard Sanford of Alma Rosa has been releasing Peregrine falcons, which help to protect vineyards from grape guzzling birds such as European starlings. The UC Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group organizes and oversees the releases utilizing a university student workforce.
In the past week we've picked Merlot and Cabernet Franc from St. Helena for Bressler, and the same two varieties from Frediani Vineyard in Calistoga for Selene, Cabernet Sauvignon from St. Helena and Malbec from Stagecoach Vineyard, both for Boyanci Wine.
At the end of September, it was in the low 80s every day in Bordeaux, wonderful conditions for harvest. The vintage looks BIG, and the excitement is growing every day! At Château du Tertre, we started the harvest on Monday, Sept. 28, and by evening had already harvested around one-third of our Merlots. The juice tastes great: high in sugar, with rich and long persistent fruit in the mouth. Get the full details, along with details on what we've been picking at Giscours and Haut-Bailly, as well as Caiarossa in Tuscany.
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