Mother Nature strikes again! Early last week we saw more rain than anyone believed would hit the Santa Lucia Highlands. As winemakers and grape growers, we depend on weather reports for accuracy, days or even weeks ahead of time. For the most part reports are accurate at predicting shifts in temperature, fog layers, wind patterns and so forth. Rain, however, seems to be a weather condition that is only right 50% of the time. In this case, models predicted weather to lightly sprinkle the central coast, however, we received a quarter inch. Just enough to put winemakers and grape growers in a panic.
Rain on vineyards this time of year can have a negative impact on grapes if the correct measures are not taken before the storm. Botrytis, a fungus that can form when moisture gets inside the berries, is particularly harmful to the sensory effects of a finished wine. When knowing rain is in the forecast, prevention is key. Picking is a preventative measure, but we did not have that luxury as the grapes were not ready and the cellar was filled with fermenting Pinot Noir. A soft spray applied to our Chardonnay grapes helped to alleviate potential botrytis and rot issues caused by rain. As we pick Chardonnay this week, we are seeing healthy, plump berries; a sign that the rain did not affect us negatively.
Harvest will continue for at least another 3-4 weeks. Next week we will finish picking Pinot Noir, as well as the last of our SLH Chardonnay. Then on to Chardonnay from our Ste. Nicolas Vineyard in Arroyo Seco. Coming in last will be our long-hanging Grenache. This varietal can hang on the vine even longer than Cabernets, and produce quality aromas and flavors such as strawberry, spice, and white pepper.
The pace this year has been steady, manageable and productive which seems to be favorable to most. We are over halfway done and that is reason enough to gain a second wind (not rain!) and push through these last few weeks. Our cellar team has proven everlasting dedication and focus, traits that are commendable. Natalie, our Lab Technician, has been monitoring our tank and barrel ferments like a hawk. Her watchful eye and keen sense of potential fermentation problems is noteworthy.
Looking forward to more picking, our annual Harvest Celebration on October 13th, and finishing up the beautiful vintage of 2018.