Well, we are about a month into the general 2015 harvest. I plan to try and keep you informed as to all the gory details of our first harvest here at Vellichor. Things are already looking crazy. There are a few main things going on right now. And yes, the drought is partly to blame.
First off, this past growing season was crazy warm. I mean crazy warm. But, if you live in California, something tells me I’m preaching to the choir on that one. In regards to vines, the hotter a day is, (in viticulture speak, the more “degree days”) the more growing and photosynthesizing a vine can do. Taking into account vineyard management practices, this means a vine can grow faster in a given period. In addition, the unusually warm weather we had this summer started very early on. This led to an earlier start in the growing season. And we never actually had a winter. It was more like a light fall. That led to craziness. Craziness so crazy, that Cabernet lots are coming in before Chardonnay. (To all those learning about all things viticulture & enology, grapes typically ripen from white grapes to red grapes -> Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon). As Kanye would say, (I can’t believe I’m quoting him…) grapes were cray-cray.
Second (there is a second, Bacchus save us all), things decided to get unspeakably hot in the second week of August. Brix values spiked. And I mean hit the roof!! (Side note, Brix values are a measurement of sugar concentration). Brix values increased 2 degrees in a matter of days, equaling about 0.5 degree jumps per day! Generally speaking, 0.25 degree Brix increases per day are the usual. Thus, you can see how crazy this is. (I feel like I’m using that word a lot…) There was a scramble to get the grapes in before the Brix got any higher! Too much sugar in grapes, though one would think ideal, will lead to high alcohol levels. There is actually a thing of too much alcohol in wine, shockingly enough. High alcohol levels can stall fermentations and detract from a particular winemaking style desired for that lot. With that in mind, and the most up-to-date weather date, I set a pick date…
Thirdly (if the first two weren’t enough), El Niño decided to try and save the day. The Sonoma/Napa counties suddenly experienced a cooling trend that led to drastically slowing, and in some cases decreasing, Brix values. Cease all picking! Abort mission! The fruit isn’t ready yet, or is now not ready! A pre-pick Brix check showed the Brix values were stagnant at 21.1. They hadn’t increased one iota in 7 days. And this is Viognier we are talking about! Goodness gracious. It is almost enough to drive a self-assured winemaker to drink.
So, given all that, nothing about this season was, is, and will be textbook. At this point, we are pretty much flying by the seat of our pants, desperately trying to rely on Brix values to determine when things will be ready to pick. Don’t get me wrong, it will be fun. But it will definitely keep me on the edge of my seat. I can’t wait! 😀 Let the fun begin!