It’s Friday and the winery is full! Grapes are arriving daily and all fermenters are full. As the gleaming stainless steel tanks get pressed out, emptied of their skins and wine, they are refilled with freshly crushed grapes. As of today, our 2016 harvest is 46% complete. Specifically, 75% of Pinot Noir has been harvested while the rest still hangs on the vine ripening. Merlot, Grenache, Syrah and Malbec continue to vine ripen. Pinot Gris is 100% finished, yet fermentation is just beginning for this cold-fermented ambrosia. So far, we are averaging 3.13 tons per acre across all estate vineyards. This low crop amount indicates our focus on the highest quality fruit growing practices. Fermentations in tanks have been averaging 7 days from picking and crushing, to emptying the tank and pressing. Once pressed, the new wine in tanks settles for a few days. In other words, our reds are going from vine to wine barrel in about 10 days!
This week, we brought in grapes from every estate vineyard: Smith, Hook, Lone Oak, Doctor’s, Ste. Philippe and Ste. Nicolas. It started with 12 tons of Pommard clone Pinot Noir followed by 150 tons of Pinot Noir from Ste. Philippe Vineyard. We continued with 6 tons of 828 clone Pinot Noir for our Winery Selection Noir Blanc. 6 tons of Calera clone Pinot Noir came in for our Lucienne program. 24 tons of clone 667 & clone 777 Pinot Noir for the SLH and Lucienne programs. Tuesday was very much like Monday with almost 20 tons altogether. It’s been a busy week!
Today, we are harvesting a block of Lone Oak named, “Orchestra.” This section has an assortment of Pinot Noir clones planted, not just one single clone as is the case in the rest of our vineyard blocks. We have been experimenting with this “field blend” for a few years now and are finding very pleasing results. We will continue to pick Pinot Noir for the rest of the week and have started to harvest our chardonnay grapes. Lone Oak has been the jewel of our Chardonnay wines for many, many years. It is with great personal pride and joy that we once again harvest amazing grapes from this historic vineyard.
The weather has been typically erratic — mostly sunny, warm days that transition to chilly evenings. We had a couple days when the high temperatures reached the low 90s and then a few days, when highs barely made the mid-70s. These vast diurnal swings of cool nights warming to toasty days is part of the magic of the climate in the Santa Lucia Highlands that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay seem to really thrive on. Combine this temperature aspect with the waxing and waning behavior of our local fog layers, the geologically complex strata of our alluvial fan soils and you have the makings of a world class “Burgundian” wine region in the SLH.
The pace of work at the winery is focused intent, gratified appreciation, grateful preoccupation and just a lot of sweat and grit. Morning crew is seven cellar workers with night crew at four. In the lab and winemaking headquarters, there are five of us. All of us are winemakers, vital to the success of this noble endeavor. We have worked for this moment of glory by staying hydrated, rested and energized. Here’s to the second half of harvest 2016!
Beautiful Pinot Noir arriving ready to become premium wines.
Hand sorting the Lucienne Pinot Noir arriving by the 1/2 ton.
Doctor’s Vineyard is well known for producing quality Pinot Noir.
Lone Oak Vineyard, the jewel of our Chardonnay program.
Smith and Hook Vineyards are nestled right in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Their elevation helps to create stunning vistas of the valley, however they are a beautiful sight before you ever get onto the property!