Final Day of Pressing, 2011

November 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today (November 4th) we’re pressing off our last lot of reds for the 2011 season – a 3rd leaf Cabernet Franc from Vineyard 3.  It has been a large, late harvest for us.  Consider:

  • 2008: harvest of 53.66 tons
  • 2009: harvest of 69.86 tons
  • 2010: harvest of 74.5 tons
  • 2011: harvest of 93 tons

These increases are based on the maturation of Sunset Hills’ vineyards rather than any drastic changes in yields per acre – each year since 2008 our yielding acreage has increased, as vineyards and blocks within vineyards have reached fruit-producing ages.  Our vineyards will theoretically continue to produce more fruit until 2013, when things should level off for a year, after which we’ll get a bump when Vineyard 4 produces a crop. 

There are, of course, vintage variations which play a significant role in total tonnage produced – we’ve had frosts, pruning variations, bird activity, and seasonal variations in the past three years, all of which have altered the total yield per vineyard.  But the primary cause of our steady increase in fruit and wine produced is the maturation of the vineyards.

2011 was a heavy crop for us.  It’s easy to blame this on rain, but I think it had more to do with great fruit set in the early spring, and increased fruitfulness of vines relative to the light load they held last year – we got very small yields in 2010, which can result in heavier yields the following year as the vines attempt to balance themselves out.  What the rains did give us was better yield out of the press than in previous years – when there’s a higher ratio of liquid to skins in each grape, you see more juice in the press pan, which means more gallons or hectoliters per ton.   Consider:

  • 2009 V1 Viognier: average of 598 liters per ton
  • 2010 V1 Viognier: average of 570 liters per ton
  • 2011 V1 Viognier: average of 612 liters per ton

Throughout these three years our pressing method has remained constant for Viognier – the fruit is whole cluster pressed to a maximum pressure of 1.7 bar, after which we either stop pressing or separate the harder pressed juice (in which case it is not included in the numbers above).  So the difference in liters per ton is indicative of variations in juice per berry, strength of berry, and berry per cluster.

The only loss in crop we saw this year was due to birds, who took roughly 1-2 tons, and fruit we dropped due to mildew, which, despite the heavy pressures of the vintage, did not end up being all that much.

2011's final pomace, awaiting a ride to the compost heap

Today’s final press is bittersweet.  It’s wonderful to be done with the heavy workload, but for me it’s kind of sad to know that another vintage of grape-growing and winemaking is over.  (Today is also bittersweet because we’re ripping out vines infected with yellows, which nobody wants to have to do.)  The next few weeks will find us scrubbing the cellar from floor to ceiling, installing the trellis in Vineyard 4, and preparing two Estate Club Select wines for bottling.  Next thing you know we’ll be pruning.

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