It is time for our second annual harvest date and amount prediction. We winner of each category will receive a bottle of their choice from our current Pinot Noir releases at the time the contest closes.
A few hints…we have 3100 vines which produced between 2.1 and 3.8 tons the last 3 years. Harvest has occured between August 23 and September 13 for those vintages. BTW, bud break was 4 days later this year than last 2016.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to enter!
Why the $2 bill?
Well, not often do you see the North Coast grape harvest drop like it did in 2015 (sort of like a $2 bill)…unless it was from the recent Great Recession.
Due to the 23% drop in tonnage harvested (we were off by 60%!)…the amount of money to the vineyard’s in the North Bay reduced to $1.12B from $1.46B. However, due to the shortage of grapes the price went up 5% in Sonoma County…and the Pinot Noir average price was $3,500/ton. For those not in the business, this translates to just about $5/bottle (~55-60 cases/ton) just for average grapes before any processing starts which is more expensive! Grapes that make excellent wines are much more expensive and could be twice as much! Now you know why Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley is expensive.
We have veraison!!! (grapes turn from green to red)
What does that mean:
– I have to finish any final preparations to the vineyard before the nets go up in 3 weeks…drop week canes, final sprays, leafing, etc.
– With the light crop I have this year, looks like harvest will be the end of Aug.
– I need to bottle my 2014 Pinot Noir to free up space for the 2015!!!
BTW, my new harvest estimate is:
– 3 tons Pinot Noir
– 250 lbs Merlot
– 180 lbs Sauvignon Blanc
Where did the year go? I know I’m getting older but it seems like I just finished making wine from 2014.
As everyone knows farmers worry a lot about the weather…so here goes mine. California is in its 4th year of drought. Last year we finished with a little over half the normal rainfall and this rainy season is almost over and we are in the same shape as last year…unless we get a lot of rain in March and April.
What does that mean for us here in Russian River Valley? Well, last year bud break was March 11th with an early harvest of September 2nd. We had bud break February 25th this year, 2 weeks ahead of last year!
Why this is bad:
– The sooner bud break, the more chance of a heavy frost damages the shoots and ruins the crop. Normally we worry until 4/15.
– If all the other milestones are early, we will harvest mid-August. With an early harvest the grapes will not mature correctly leading to poorer phenolics.
– The chance of rain ruining fruit set is greater.
But what can you do but enjoy the nice weather and hope for a cool summer.
September 2nd, 2014 was the start of our harvest activity. Friends of ours came over and picked 1300 pounds of Pommard (Pinot Noir clone). The next day, with the help of Bernadino, he and I picked 1100 pounds of 667 (another Pinot Noir clone). Then on September 4th, Rob’s crew came in and picked the rest of the Pinot Noir that was sold to Horse and Plow, 5100 pounds. Since my truck and Bill’s trailer only hold 2 tons, I had to make two trips to the winery.
So for those following the last few years…we planted 3130 vines in 2010 and had our first harvest in 2012 of 1400 pounds. 2013 was 5200 pounds and this year was 7500 pounds. Next year we should be close to a fully mature vineyard and will get close to 10,000 pounds.
By the way…a few months ago I predicted 7780 pounds. Pretty close when you add in the 100 pounds I will pick for Rose this week and the 200 pounds I dropped due to mildew damage.
We are about 75% through fruit set as you can see. Last year we had areas of poor set, but this year the vines are all very healthy and the weather has been perfect.
So…I’m predicting 3.9 tons of fruit this year, will have to revise it later when I do a very thorough count of the bunches. As far as harvest, we are only a day behind on growing degree days from last year with dry weather as far as the eye can see. Last year we harvested on 9/11 and 9/12 and I think since we have more fruit it will be 9/15 and 9/16.
If you have been reading the blog, you will know that the Pinot Noir harvest has been a little high in pH. This was due to 3 reasons: young vineyards normally have high pH’s; watering between set and veraison will cause the vines to pull up potassium from the soil; if the soil does not have the correct ratio of Calcium/potassium/magnesium of around 6/1/1 with more potassium than magnesium, the potassium will be pulled into the berries and raise the pH.
Our 2012 Pinot Noir harvest resulted in a pH of 3.9 and potassium level of 2100 ppm.
Our 2013 harvest resulted in a pH of 3.76 and potassium level of 1700 ppm with 1 year of growing and limiting the water from set to veraison.
For 2014 we are adding 1/2 pound of Organic Epson Salt per vine. The Epson Salt will add magnesium level close to the potassium level. Hopefully this should reduce the uptake of potassium. In addition, we are installing an extra drip hose for those vines that need water. This will alleviate the need to water an entire row until it needs it. This should help the potassium level as well as enhance the flavor of the grapes.
So…how is this done. We purchased 1600 pounds of Epson Salt and will sprinkle this along the vine row. When it rains this will quickly dissolve into the soil.
Let’s hope it works well! Only have to wait a year to find out…I’m hoping to get a pH of 3.55 for 2014, which would be perfect for my style of Pinot!
For most vineyards the 3rd leaf is the first time you get grapes. Not so for Joey’s Sauvignon Blanc. Last year (her second year) we got 35 lbs which resulted in 2 gallons of wine. In addition, we harvested her grapes the same time as the Pinot Noir on Sept 23rd.
This year I left a little to much fruit on the vines given it does not get as much sun as the Pinot Noir, so it has grown well but is 5 weeks behind in ripening. However, we have had almost no rain and the days have been warm so it is finally ready to pick! How do I know? The birds have started to peck and eat the grapes.
Sunday we will pick, destem and crush the grapes…then on Monday we will rack and introduce yeast…fun, fun, fun!!!
2013 TURTLE VINES VINEYARD
– For 2013 we harvested 5199 pounds of grapes this year vs an estimated 1190 pounds in 2012! We hope to eventually harvest around 11,000 pounds.
– By carefully restricting the water from set to veraison, we were able to reduce the pH at harvest from 3.9 to 3.76 even while harvesting at a higher brix! Still need a ways to get to optimal winemaking.
– With the help of Patrick Hamilton, a SRJC student, we staked up the irrigation hoses, eliminated twins and improved the cane pruning process.
– Our gopher population increased dramatically over recent years but so did our capture rate. Twenty three as of this date.
IMPROVEMENTS FOR 2014
– Remove mystery vines and weak vines in the fall or spring
– Outsource to Wilkinson Vineyard Management some of the more labor intensive operations.
– Improve the process of harvest as we will have around 4+ tons of grapes.
– Decrease further the potassium uptake with prudent watering and magnesium supplementation of the soil.
– Implement a petiole analysis program.
– Add a second irrigation hose to around 20 rows in the vineyard for the weaker vines.
– Investigate biodynamic vineyard practices
2012 was our first harvest, and we made wine with the 1190 pounds, which turned out great!
This year we picked 1037 pounds on Tuesday Sept. 10th just for us and our wine and sold the rest of the grapes. The rest we picked on Wednesday Sept 11th. Wilkinson Vineyard Management showed up at 10:15am with 13 pickers. In 1 hour 45 minutes they finished the entire vineyard. They ended up with a little over 2 tons, split 0.8 tons 667 Clone and 1.3 tons Pommard Clone that was delivered to Horse and Plow Winery. So…with both picks we harvested 2.6 tons!
Here is a picture of our truck and borrowed trailer delivering the grapes.
Awaiting the final weigh tag.
Joey harvesting for our wine.
Setting up the destemmer.
First punch down of grapes with 30 ppm sulfur before they get 5 days of cold soak.