The First Harvest Update of 2016
Welcome to your 2016 harvest updates. Yes, it’s already that time of year! Yes, believe me, it always seems to sneak up on us as well.
Things on the Bordeaux-variety side are quiet, so I asked our wonderfully talented and passionate Twomey Winemaker, Erin Miller, to write for this edition.
Reds in Napa and Alexander Valleys are really just starting to hit their pre-harvest strides. A few vineyard blocks are putting their hands up as potentially being ready before late August, but September will be when the real action occurs this year in Geyserville and Oakville.
Each day this week, we’ve gotten up prepared for oppressively hot temperatures based on the forecasts, and, each day, we’ve been surprised at how mild it’s been. There’s absolutely no complaining on our part, though, as the ripening curve has had a very relaxed, mellow feel. Things are moving slowly, which suits everyone just fine as it allows all the different types of physiological ripening in the fruit (which aren’t always necessarily tied to one another) to get in sync. I hope these inaccuracies continue.
Without further ado,
2016 Harvest Update
August 12th, 2016
August 2016 finds us in a new season for wine. The weather has been warm with cool evenings. Fog has been settling in the valleys in the early mornings protecting the fruit from long days of sun. The warmth of the afternoon sun has pushed the Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc to the edges of ripeness.
One thing we, as winemakers grapple with every year is when to “make the call.” We want to walk the very fine line between fresh, bright acidity, dense color, intense flavors, and overt sugars. It is a fine effort in balance. And, with these thoughts in mind we headed to the vineyards to assess the vines’ maturity.
So, on August 9th, Twomey began harvest with fruit from Santa Maria Valley’s Bien Nacido Vineyard. Our Director of Winemaking Daniel, Grower Relations Manager Nick and I were able to pull ourselves out of bed at 2am for the first pick of the year. Block 1W-Tail, as the section is known for the narrow part of long rows attached to the main bulk of the block, was picked in just under 3 hours. This, one of the Pommard clone blocks we enjoy so much from the Bien Nacido Vineyard, shows early phenological ripeness with low sugar accumulation, while maintaining acidity which brings lift to the bouquet. Once the fruit arrived at Twomey, our 2016 production team christened the bins of grapes with California bubbles to thank Dionysus and the gods of fruit and wine. Sorted into a tank we eagerly await what the next two weeks of fermentation will bring.
Shortly thereafter, the first of the Sauvignon Blanc from Twomey Calistoga arrived to be whole cluster pressed into tank. The flavorful clusters were a beautiful blend of the sun-kissed golden yellow fruit with some of the shade-grown chartreuse-colored fruit. This tasty, fresh, juice heralds of the Sauvignon Blanc we will soon enjoy in our glasses.
Two questions I receive frequently are, “How is the 2016 Harvest?” and “What is the Soberanes fire doing to our fruit?” In answer to the first question, I point out what a generous spring we had with late-season rainfall and warm but not grueling-hot days. These factors contribute to a somewhat replenished soil water profile, a slow, but comfortable growing season, and a more moderate fruit expectation-not big, but thankfully more than 2015 brought us. To the second question, I am very thankful to report that the fire is on the ocean side of the coastal range (about 7-10 miles over the hills from the Santa Lucia Highlands), where the marine breezes refresh the air frequently. The smoke has been a minor, high-cloud cover at most. We will certainly continue to keep our eyes on it, but the fruit will probably be coming into the winery in the next week or so.
This coming week will certainly bring the end of our summer and the start of our harvest intensive. The cooler than expected temperatures toward the end of this week have helped make a steady start of the grape deliveries, but we know the ball has begun to roll. This is surely the beginning of what will be a fun-filled, and exciting 2016 Harvest.
-Nate Weis and Erin Miller
Silver Oak Winemaker and Twomey Winemaker