With seeds crunchy, dark and having lost their pulp, it looks like its time to pull the metaphorical trigger. This past weekend, Frank Ostini and Gray Hartley, the winemakers/proprietors of Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post (H.O.), with much machination, rumination, sample pondering, hair pulling and seed spitting, decided that tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 29, is the day to harvest their 2009 Sta. Rita Hills Cargasacchi Pinot Noir.
It's time. Veraison began here during the first days of August and ended with complete berry coloration throughout the vineyards during the third week of August. During that third week of the eighth month, we went through and dropped the last 10 percent of fruit that had not fully colored yet. This "green drop" eliminates the clusters that were late to pollinate and is very important for uniformity of flavors in the wine.
The two H.O. blocks, each an acre in size, are on soils that are less than 20 inches deep, laying over calcareous shale bedrock, and are among the earliest sections of the vineyard to ripen for me. This fruit is coming off six weeks after completing veraison with numbers of slightly over 24 Brix and 3.28 pH, after the sample was crushed and allowed to cold soak for 24 hours.
More important, the flavors are dark, rich and luscious with no astringence or grippiness left in the seeds after they are chewed. Chewing the fruit and seeds helps us look behind the sugars that can mask green flavors and hide unripe tannins.
The picking decision is all-important because after fermentation it is too late to adjust flavors. Especially regarding the seeds, because toward the end of fermentation, the seed husks become susceptible to dissolving in the presence of alcohol and seed tannins become part of the wine's flavor profile. In fruit hanging on the vine, green character can be masked by sugars if one does not look behind the sweetness, but after fermentation, when all the sugars have been converted to alcohol, any herbaceous or bitter flavors can come to the forefront.
The rest of today will be spent going over checklists and making sure everything is ready to go, including headlamps for night picking. I am about to head off to the winery where I make my own wine and store my picking bins. The bins have been scrubbed and put away clean. Though we may differ in winemaking philosophy and whether we include leopard prints in our wardrobes, one of the things my fellow bloggers and I have in common is the knowledge of how important winemaking sanitation is. Sanitation starts in the vineyard. Though basically clean enough to eat off of, the harvest bins will get another rinse with ozone water and then be allowed to dry.
Looking down the road into the next week, I think we are about to see some hurrying and scurrying across California as Mother Nature starts to show what a fickle mistress she can be. Long-range weather forecasts are suggesting that the cooler weather this week might be followed by rain next week. This is not surprising given the El Niño conditions.
That loud beating sound you hear is my heart as the pace quickens!
Frank Ostini — Buellton, CA — September 28, 2009 3:54pm ET
Frank Ostini — Buellton, CA — September 30, 2009 12:58am ET
Frank Ostini — Buellton, CA — September 30, 2009 5:53pm ET
Peter Cargasacchi — Sta. Rita Hills — October 2, 2009 12:12am ET
Frank Ostini — Buellton, CA — October 2, 2009 2:01am ET
Frank Ostini — Buellton, CA — October 2, 2009 7:40pm ET
Frank Ostini — Buellton, CA — October 6, 2009 7:47am ET
Frank Ostini — Buellton, CA — October 7, 2009 1:19pm ET
Frank Ostini — Buellton, CA — October 8, 2009 1:05pm ET
Frank Ostini — Buellton, CA — October 15, 2009 1:01am ET
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