2011 Harvest Update – Midpoint Between the Whites and the Reds (Sort of)
October 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
I’ve got a little breathing room as we prepare to bring in the last of our whites. Here’s where we’re at: we’ve picked all the Chardonnay, all the Albariño, all the Petit Manseng, and most of the Viognier. We’ve picked one small lot of Merlot, one of Petit Verdot, and one of a grape which I won’t yet name, but which will be used for our first port.
With all the rain we’ve gotten over the past two months, it’s been a difficult year in terms of allowing ideal hangtime. We’ve had too many rainy days to count, which, when there isn’t enough sunlight to dry things off, creates conditions for the growth of a number of grape mildews or rots. Many growers have had to make tough decisions – some fruit has been dropped due to overwhelming rot, some left on the vine for the same reason, and some picked early to avoid potential problems. While I generally assume the grass is greener for everybody else, I know we’ve been fortunate in our vineyards this year, partly due to getting the crew out pulling leaves when the rains started, partly due to our already low yields and favorable cluster spacing, and partly due, I think, to luck. As it stands, we’ve been picking everything much later than usual, and at about 40% of our normal picking speed, so that we get the fruit cleaned up in the vineyard (meaning we simply don’t pick what won’t make good wine), making our pressing and winemaking decisions much easier. Also, we’ve broken sections of the vineyards into even smaller lots, and we’ve been treating each lot differently based upon parameters of ripeness. It’s been a fun year to problem solve and push hard to get in fruit in as ripe as possible.
Despite the wet weather, I’m very excited about the fruit we’ve brought in: the Chardonnay lots are full of pineapple and spice, Albariño is crisp and exotic, Petit Manseng floats in another galaxy, and the Viogniers span quite a pleasant expanse of green melon, ripe melon, and broad spice. It’s a testament to the vineyard crew that settling and fermentations have been so clean and problem free – things would be a lot different if the fruit didn’t look so good. It’s a bit early to say anything about the reds this year, but I’m always optimistic. Tomorrow we pick V1 Viognier and Merlot. Saturday we pick Malick Viognier. Monday we pick V3 Merlot. Tuesday we begin looking closely at Cab Franc blocks. And on it goes.
Across the board, the 2011 harvest has potential to be somewhat polarizing for each individual winery, because while there will certainly be many good and sometimes great wines made this year, it is also possible, because of the disease pressure in nearly all Virginia vineyards, for some pretty bad juice. This is a year for winegrowers and winemakers to really show what they’re made of, in terms of keeping their vineyards clean and, if necessary, adjusting their winemaking to fix potential issues in the cellar. Once the wines are bottled, consumers will choose whose work they prefer to drink with dinner, and nobody wants to be left with a warehouse full of unsold wine.
Today is sunny, which makes me happy. We’ve got guys out in our Viognier cleaning the clusters, dropping fruit we don’t want, and getting things ready for picking tomorrow. I’m excited about getting this fruit into the cellar, and looking toward adjusting our sights for some serious red winemaking, which will come in the next three weeks. As always, we’re always happy to see visitors during harvest, so don’t hesitate to come by to check out our operations!