From 3 a.m. and into later this morning we harvested the 2-acre Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir block for the winemaking partnership of Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton. I had to send a text to the B-C boys when my wife, Julia, left with the first load of half-ton bins: "Concentrated squid ink on its way." It looked that good, if perhaps a little light at barely 2 tons per acre.
The yields are always a little lighter in the Brewer-Clifton block because they do whole-cluster fermentations. Which means the stems are included in the fermentation and those stems must be ripe and lignified (woody) when the fruit is harvested. Ripening the stems is the reason the yields are lower. In order to get more sunlight into the interior of the clusters and onto the stem, I intentionally disrupt the flowering process to loosen the clusters. The result is loose, smaller clusters with small berries. Not something sane winegrowers normally do, and it's just one component of a system that has been developed working with Steve and Greg over the past eight vintages now.
Yesterday, I pulled in the 2-acre section of fruit for the Bonaccorsi Wine Company. Jenne Bonaccorsi was there before 3 a.m., in the cold, slinging buckets and sorting fruit and, as usual, making sure nothing got into the bins that didn't belong there.
Jenne gets two sections of Pinot Noir clone 115 that has been grafted onto two different rootstocks. Rootstock 420A is shallow rooting, low vigor and tends to come into water deficit earlier in the season. For some reason it seems to influence for a fruitier character. The 3309C rootstock is a little deeper rooting but not very tolerant of the high soil pH and free lime in the soil. It too is low vigor, but tends to influence for darker fruit character. Without delving too deeply, I think the differences the rootstocks impart on fruit character has to do with the influence on canopy development, water utilization and ripening on the cluster physiology. It's how the rootstocks affect the physical structure of the vine and cluster rather than imparting a particular flavor.
The point of planting the same clone on two dissimilar rootstocks is to take the 115 Pinot Noir clone in two different directions and then blend together. Another clone selected in Morey-St.-Denis, 115 is considered a complete clone that can stand alone without blending because it produces balanced, rich, dark wines by itself. The most widely planted Pinot Noir clone in Burgundy, 115 is described in the French ENTAV International Catalogue for Pinot Noir: "Organoleptic characteristics of the wine: strong color with a purplish hue, superior bouquet, elegant, rich aroma typical of its type, a hint of small fruits, well-structured, tannic, long, suitable for keeping."
I am not sure if Jenne is cofermenting the two separate lots or fermenting them together. I will try to find out and post some details. I do know that she destems the fruit before fermenting.
I wish I could write a little more but need to get to the winery and do some work. I am doing most of my winemaking at Brian and Kimberly Loring's winery in Lompoc and they have been very patiently covering my butt, doing much of my work and helping me survive another harvest!
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