Posted by Brian Loring
Since this is our 10th harvest at Loring Wine Company, my sister, Kimberly, and I were recently reminiscing about the past. So many amazing things have happened during that time–things that dreams are made of. But there is also the memory of a particular event that isn’t so great. The one shared memory that causes most Pinot Noir growers and winemakers to cross themselves and mutter protective curses under their breath. The 2004 harvest–the source of all my (winemaking) childhood traumas.
In most normal years, we see fruit ripen at different times across the AVAs from which we source fruit. We also usually see separation between vineyards within an AVA. This works out nicely since it allows for a controlled, steady flow of fruit into the winery. By the time the later fruit arrives, the earlier fruit is already pressed and tucked away safely in barrel, allowing us to re-use fermenters and floor space. It also balances out the days so that we don’t have to work until midnight or later each night. Compressing the harvest into fewer days is never a fun thing.
2004 was the year of the never-ending heat spike. There’s always some kind of heat spell during the harvest season, but in 2004 it was not only severe in temperature (95-100 degrees), but it was also relentless in length (3 or so weeks). And it was California-wide.
Sugar levels in the grapes started to soar, and we ended up picking almost the entire harvest within a week. It seemed like there was an endless stream of trucks with fruit showing up at the winery. We’d barely catch up and another truckload would appear. We had to let fruit sit in our refrigerated truck for sometimes as long as two days while we tried to catch up. We ran out of fermenters and started crushing into picking bins. We had no space, and we basically never slept. I’m not sure how we made it through that year. Not that our story is unique; it’s the kind of thing you’ll hear from every Pinot producer when you mention 2004. And you might notice a slight twitch as they recount the tale.
So why am I’m focusing on 2004? Because 2008 is looking to be a lot like that harvest. We’ve had a prolonged heat wave across the state, and most of our vineyards are poised to come ripe at the same time. Another nudge from Mother Nature, and we’ll be off to the races like 2004. The similarity to 2004 made me look back at the Harvest Blog I did on WineSpectator.com that year. The thought of trying go through that again in a place the size of our old winery makes me doubly thankful we’re in our new winery this year. Now, if only I had a new (younger) body to match.
Check out www.PinotHarvest.com for more harvest updates from me and fellow Pinot producers. And see my crush videos.
Eric Hall — San Francisco, CA — September 5, 2008 11:01am ET
Apj Powers — Dallas, TX — September 5, 2008 11:17am ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — September 5, 2008 12:52pm ET
Douglas Mossman Iii — Maui, — September 6, 2008 7:43pm ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — September 8, 2008 12:33pm ET
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