We’re all in! The last of our season’s grapes were harvested on Saturday and are currently fermenting in open top vessels, waiting to be pressed into oak next week. Due to the significant amount of rainfall last winter and spring, this year’s crop has been very bountiful with yields averaging 75% greater than previous vintages. What that means for the winery is every tank and every barrel is being utilized and even more vessels are on order to capacitate all this wine! To give a rough idea, there’s over a hundred full barrels and about ten 1,000+ liter tanks ageing in the winery as you read this…not bad for a small boutique winery.
With every harvest comes lots of challenges. Early mornings have become the norm, rising after just a few hours of sleep and heading into the winery to crush, transfer, punch down and press. Not to mention the frequent trips to sample all the vineyards
we work with including the Pinot Vineyard in Willamette Valley, OR. This is all part of the fun and madness of having a winery during the harvest time.
1. Timing? Just like the last three vintages (2014 - 2016) we started picking grapes relatively early. Gone are the days we could relax in August and host winemaker dinners and events. The warm spring temperatures gave the vines a jump start and many varietals got ahead of a “normal” schedule. But unlike previous years, many of our red varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah slowed down during the ripening process, thus letting the fruit hang on the vine slightly longer. A good thing for our style of winemaking. This expanded the duration of the harvest window allowing us to focus efforts on each wine and capacitate the larger crop (versus the madness of all varieties ripening within a week of each other). While we pride ourselves on planning and organizing, some days still felt like a constant juggling act of scheduling harvesting and coordinating winemaking activities.
2. Crop load? The yields are at a relatively high level this year. Nice for a farmer selling grapes by the ton – which we don't do. But also good for us winemakers – except when Mike pulls his hair out trying to find space in the packed winery.
3. Good stuff? How is the fruit? Tasting the grapes in the darkness as we pick, smelling the fermenters when we do punch downs, checking the colors of each vat (called “must”) and finally enjoying the young wine is our way of assessing the quality. We are very happy with the outcome. 2017 2Plank red wines promise to be soft and dark with light acidity.
4. Weather? We can’t complain. We are very fortunate compared to the devastating fires many Napa and Sonoma wineries endured this year. We understand how quickly someone’s life work can be instantly destroyed in a fire, earthquake or other unplanned disaster and are reminded to never take Mother Nature’s power for granted. With that being said, San Diego experienced a consistently warm, but not record breaking hot summer, combined with a tapering off period in October giving many vines the optimal growing conditions – and the results are described above. Now we are just hoping for another wet winter.
Our final thoughts for this season: We are fortunate to have many loyal, curious and genuinely hardworking club members who offered to lend a hand during this busy crush season. Everything from helping us sort the green stems out of fresh crushed grapes to mopping the floors, it all helps to produce better wines. And for those members who just popped into the winery within the last couple months to see what we’re doing, we hope you received a “behind the scenes” look at how fine wines are produced which will further your appreciation for the art and science of our craft.
A toast to 2017!