Over that past few weeks our vineyards have been abuzz with activity. As farmers, our family constantly tends to the vineyards which means meticulous care for every vine throughout our properties in Napa Valley.
With the immense amount of rainfall received over winter, we are seeing a lot more vigor than in previous vintages. Earlier this month we kept busy with leaf removal and shoot positioning to foster adequate light through the canopy and properly see each cluster to maturity. Things are looking great out there and we anticipate a bumper crop for the 2017 vintage.
Over the years, my family has acquired nearly 350 acres of vineyards – which means we have spent much time planting and replanting vines. The newest of late, is the replanting of a 15-acre fallow block on our Crossroads Ranch to Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 2. We anticipate this vineyard to come to fruition in the next 3-to-5 years with excellent Oakville fruit. Stay tuned!
“Well, it’s that time of year again – The drought appears to be behind us, at least for the moment. Since the New Year, we have received more rainfall than we average for the entire year. Fortunately, all of Flora Springs vineyards drain quite well, and this has supplied much needed water to top off all of our reservoirs as well as adding to our water table. Between the rains, we did experience some warm days. This is when the starch in the vines post dormancy, converts to sugar, where sap begins to flow through the vine. As the days become warmer, buds start to swell, and finally burst, creating a new shoot.
What you see in this picture is bud break on our Malbec vineyard at Komes Ranch at Flora Springs Estate. In about 6 months, grapes from these vines will make their way to the winery, and eventually find their way into Trilogy.” – Winemaker Paul Steinauer
We started the harvest on Aug 16th picking Pinot Grigio in the Oak Knoll appellation, and we just finished on Tuesday, Oct 11th with Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville appellation – so just about a 2 month harvest.
All in all, it was a terrific harvest! We experienced a very light amount of rain that did not affect the grapes at all. We only had a few days with any unusual heat spikes. We are however, very glad to be finished, in that there is a significant amount of rain in the forecast from Friday through Monday. There are many wineries that are forced to leave their fruit out through the rains, and again, a relief to not be one of them.”
—Winemaker Paul Steinauer
“Well, Mother Nature once again threw us a bit of a curve ball – We experienced 3 days around 100F, then it cooled off and actually had some showers on Sunday & Monday this week. The good news is that none of that has effected the grapes to any degree at all. We have harvested approximately 80% of our fruit thus far and the remaining grapes will be brought in by the end of next week. We have a handful of blocks on the Komes Ranch in the Rutherford Appellation – Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc. We also have a few blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon at our Crossroads Ranch in the Oakville Appellation as well. We are just waiting for these blocks to garner a more complex flavor profile before we pick them.”
—Winemaker Paul Steinauer
“We started our first day of harvest on Aug 16, 2016 with our Pinot Grigio, then segued into our Sauvignon Blanc on Aug 19, and completed our last Sauvignon Blanc harvest on Aug 26. We will now have roughly a 2-week window between our next picks, particularly with the cooler weather we are experiencing.
We have a new planting of Chardonnay at our Lavender Hill vineyard that is about 2 weeks away. Also, we have Merlot at the Komes Ranch at the Flora Springs Estate that is approximately 2 weeks away as well.
The Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are fermenting at the moment. In the first photo, you will see a Sauvignon Blanc fermentation taking place in a temperature controlled stainless steel tank – These grapes were picked at 23.4 brix, and is currently at 5 brix. As the yeast consumes the sugars, you get approximately .6% alc per brix, so the current alcohol is about 10.4%, and once the yeast has consumed all the sugars, the final alcohol will be roughly 13.9%. We ferment at 55 degrees F, and the process takes roughly 3 weeks or so. We raise the temperature towards the end of fermentation as to prevent yeast stress and ensure the fermentation will reach completion.
In the second photo you will see some 60 gallon oak barrels, as well as some 135 gallon oak puncheons that are being used to ferment Sauvignon Blanc as well. You will notice a series of stainless tubing connected by glycol hoses. We have this manifold system connected to a thermostat where we are able to control the temperature of the fermentation just like in the tank. The plastic bag you see on top, just seal the bung holes, will allow CO2 from the fermentation to escape.”
“We harvested our first grapes today – Pinot Grigio. Pinot Grigio from a distance looks more like a red grape than a white grape, but they actually have more of a brown skin color to them when harvested. The grapes were picked early morning to take advantage of the cool weather. They are all handpicked and gently poured into 1/2 ton bins.”
“This is from a block of Merlot in the Komes Ranch vineyard at the Flora Springs Estate and these grapes go into the Trilogy blend. Based on the current level of ripeness, I would suspect these grapes will be harvested around the second week of September. We are experiencing a bit of a heat wave at the moment, but the vines are looking strong and healthy.”
—Winemaker Paul Steinauer
“This week we plan to wrap up harvest in Oakville and all the other AVAs we grow fruit in, too. We will be picking our last two Oakville cabernet sauvignon blocks on Thursday, Oct. 1. The grapes are tasty and sweet, but canopies are starting to tire after a couple of September heat spikes. We are not alone in our timing either. Natalie Jure Buckland of Opus One said that as of the end of last week they had brought in around 70 percent of their fruit.”
“I was cluster sampling some chardonnay at our Lavender Hill vineyard this morning. Crazy year! We are 90% complete with harvest, with only 5 blocks remaining. We still have this one block of chardonnay – that’s a first. We will be picking it on Tuesday.”
“Things in Oakville are busy, busy, busy. Weather like this (HOT) limits hang time. Grape sugar levels can get out of hand, and even well-irrigated fruit starts to shrivel. Stacy Vogel of Miner Family will start bringing in Oakville cabernet sauvignon this week, with an eye towards finishing harvest in the next couple weeks. Garrett Buckland of Premiere Viticultural Services says that Accendo Cellars in Oakville is also starting their cabernet harvest this week, along with many of their neighbors. Of course, the merlot harvest is well underway throughout Oakville. At Flora Springs, we hope to start and finish picking our Oakville merlot this week.”