In my backyard grows a Willow tree that puts me in a trance when the wind blows through it, illuminating dancing specks of sunlight along the ground. Yesterday, as I sat there watching it, the light hit in a certain way during this time of year in California when the sun and shadow angles show the first signs of Fall.
Over the last four years we’ve had earlier harvests with fruit ready to come off the vines during the 3rd or 4th week of August. Mid to end of August was starting to look like the new norm, but mother nature surprised us by pushing it to a mid-September start this year.
Looking back, the 2018 growing season started out with record high temperatures December through February, encouraging bud break to start in early February. After bud break, we had some bouts with frost and some hail storms in March. Thankfully we had no damage to the new growth.
Rain in March was a welcoming sight, finally feeling like winter. With late season rain comes increased mildew pressure. We rushed to ensure all our shoot thinning and leafing was done early which was paramount to the quality we are seeing in the vineyards.
Right now, we are in a holding pattern, with the current cooler temperatures allowing for gradual ripening fruit. For the two main varieties we grow, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this gradual ripening is what we want. If the sugar accumulating in the berry happens faster than the development of color in the skin and ripening of the seed, it can be a detriment to the quality of the wine. Although we have brought in a small amount of fruit for sparkling wine and had an early ripening block of Pinot Noir, we don’t anticipate getting into the full rhythm of harvest until next week.
With this holding pattern, it is allowing us to continue to focus on blending and bottling the 2017 Hahn Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We are very excited about these new wines! The quality is among the best I can remember at this stage. Not only are we rolling out with killer wine in the bottle, but we are also rolling out a beautiful upgrade to the package for both our Hahn and Boneshaker brands.
Along with the angle of the sun showing the first signs of Fall, I expect we will see an offshore wind flow set up very soon, bringing Monterey County’s Indian Summer. The east winds clear the fog out and give the grapes their last kiss of sun, guaranteeing full ripeness before they become wine.
As we get into the rhythm of harvest, Juan Jose Verdina Busch (Hahn Winemaker), Megan McCollough (Smith & Hook Winemaker) and I will be giving weekly updates on how the harvest will unfold.