This last week, we finished a march of man and machine through 300 estate acres. We are nearly finished with harvesting Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands, both mentally and physically. Seems like every year harvest gets longer, with this year being excessively drawn out. Though maybe I’m just getting old.

We have a few clones of Pinot Noir left to pick in Doctor’s and Smith vineyards and are now shifting our focus to our northern most vineyard, Lone Oak. Compared to our southern SLH estate vineyards, Lone Oak is shrouded in fog until later in the morning, allowing for slower ripening. Some of our most beautiful fruit comes out of this vineyard, including our Orchestral Pinot Noir and luxury Chardonnay programs.

The weather forecast for this week is showing a potential for rain, not a good forecast for picking grapes. Our hope is that the beautiful Santa Lucia Mountain range will take the brunt of the rain on the western slope, otherwise known as the Big Sur Coast. This mountain range is our rain shadow and we hope it prevails once again. Light rain shouldn’t be an issue, but heavy rain means we will need to speed harvesting up before rot sets in.

As we finish up harvesting in the Santa Lucia Highlands, we also shift our focus to the Arroyo Seco AVA in which we farm another 400 acres, primarily Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Grenache. Juan Jose has been busy determining which clones of Pinot Noir are ready to come in. Over the years, we’ve discovered some incredible gem vineyard blocks from our Arroyo Seco estate vineyards. As a result, we are rolling out a new offering of both Arroyo Seco appellated Pinot Noir and Chardonnay bottlings, beginning with the 2017 vintage. I had a bottle of each over the weekend and they are rocking good wines!

Our Smith & Hook Cabernet specialist, Megan McCollough, has been working closely with our Vineyard Manager, Patrick Headley, in South Monterey County and Paso Robles from which we source most of our Cabernet Sauvignon. The ripening of Bordeaux varieties in these regions seems to be all over the board, with some ready to be harvested now, others a few weeks off.

Finally, I can’t say enough about our cellar and vineyard staff. We started harvest immediately after Labor Day and it has been steady up until last week. It started as a slow dance, everyone getting the rhythm of harvest down to full on rock-and-roll this last week… and they still have rhythm. It’s a multitude of activity happening all at once, bottling wines from last year’s harvest while grapes from this year hit the tanks for fermentation.


Paul Clifton