As my colleagues have been reporting, it’s been a slow start to harvest this year, particularly for Pinot Noir. It could be because we’ve had unusually cool mornings in the Santa Lucia Highlands, which slows ripening. I grew up near here, and the weather this fall reminds me of walking to school as a kid. The fog would be so thick in the morning it was kind of eerie, and kind of exciting.
While the Pinot Noir has been trickling in, the Cabernet Sauvignon further south is ready, or close to it. So far, our yields look smaller than estimated, sometimes by as much as 50%. Of course, estimating a crop’s size isn’t an easy or exact science – Paul (our winemaker) likes to say if you could figure out how to be 100% accurate, you’d be a millionaire. In any case, this week we’ll be taking Cabernet grapes from San Antonio Valley and Hames Valley, and we have some scheduled from the Estrella Vineyard in Paso Robles. It’s unusual to pick this much Cabernet before Pinot Noir, but at least we have plenty of tank space!
Last Friday we brought in the first grapes for our Smith & Hook Sauvignon Blanc, the second vintage of this wine. We source this fruit from the Arroyo Seco AVA, from a vineyard that sits on the valley floor. Our technique for crafting this wine is interesting. The grapes we picked last week will create a wine that has some of the fresh herbal qualities we admire in New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, as well as great natural acidity. In a couple weeks we’ll do our second pick, and these riper grapes will produce a wine with lower acids and lovely tropical/tree fruit flavors: guava, mango and peach. For both wines we’ll use two different types of yeast during the fermentation process to enhance the aromatics. Our plan is to blend these two styles together to achieve a complex, well-balanced Sauvignon Blanc, one that has rich, round fruit flavors with zesty acidity. We think you’ll really enjoy it.