“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.”
“This week we started picking chardonnay in Oakville. Although our merlot has ripened to a good sugar level, we are waiting for secondary ripeness characters such as thinning skins and dark berry flavors before it gets picked. However, merlot is being harvested from other Oakville sites this week. Yields this year are lighter than average across the board. Flora Springs winemaker Paul Steinauer believes the lighter yields are due in part to the strong yields in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons. Vines will need a break eventually. The uneven weather at bloom further reduced yields by causing berry shatter, when flowers fail to develop berries. This means loose, light clusters which isn’t bad for quality but does reduce yields.”
“Today is the first day of harvesting red grapes – and I believe the first time in the winery’s history that red grapes have been harvested before Labor Day.
We picked the East side of Block B Merlot on the Komes Ranch. This particular block ripens East to West, so we typically pick it in three sections: East, Middle and West – usually about a week apart between picks.
The yields are down this year, as a result of some variation in set due to a cold snap we experienced in May. However, the bumper crops in 2012, 2013, and 2014 may have as much to do with the low yields we are experiencing in 2015 – given the fact that vines don’t typically produce as much fruit after high yield years. The good news is the fact that the quality should be exceptional!”
“This week we are in something of a lull. We are finishing up our sauvignon blanc harvest in Oakville, but nothing else is ready for picking just yet. This seasonable, not too hot, not too cool, weather is great for slow ripening, and slow ripening is great for quality and balance, but not great when you want to get going already. … Soon enough we’ll be busy harvesting again. Both our Oakville merlot and chardonnay are hovering near ripeness. Until then we are prepping the blocks we already picked for dormancy and the 2016 season: spreading compost and cover crop seed.”
“Our Oakville harvest begins this week with sauvignon blanc, which is always the first grape to be picked for still wine. With most blocks and varieties we are slightly ahead of last year, another early year, in some we are way ahead, and in others we are slightly behind. Overall, this harvest is two to four weeks ahead of average. For example on Aug. 18 we picked a block of sauvignon blanc that we picked last year on Aug. 28. In an ‘average’ harvest’ we pick the same block on Sept. 8. Yields are light, which is speeding up ripening. Other varieties are starting to sweeten up as well!”
“We are seeing much lower yields overall in the vineyards this year. This may be attributed to the sporadic spring weather we experienced, but may have more to do with the fact that the vines have produced above average yields for three years in a row now. Our newly planted vineyard blocks on the Winery Estate – Komes Ranch in Rutherford, as well as new plantings at our Crossroads Vineyard in Oakville are experiencing a normal size crop given their age, which may support the latter scenario for the lower crop on our established vineyards. Other than making less wine, a low yielding crop can be a good thing from a quality perspective. Smaller berries, less competition to ripen can lead to more concentrated fruit and more color in the reds. Time will tell, but 2015 should prove to be another stellar harvest!”
“During flowering it is not unusual to have some clusters on the same vine more advanced than others. However, the less mature clusters typically catch up to a point where the vine is relatively homogenous. Due to the cooling trend we experienced in May, it created a situation where the clusters that were set, have advanced even during the cooling trend, but the clusters that have not set, have been much more delayed creating a greater separation in maturity. Below is a photo I took in our Hillside Reserve Cabernet vineyard – You will see the cluster on the left side is set w/ a fair amount of growth, while the clusters on the right are still flowering and have not yet completed set. We are now in a warming trend as it hit the mid 90’s yesterday, so that should get things moving to complete set, and allow those clusters that were behind to catch up. We will monitor random vines to ensure that maturity is consistent as the growing season progresses.”