Journal | October 3, 2016
The Fuse Has Been Lit
From Wednesday evening through Saturday we had over four inches of rain. Conditions were damp, but cool throughout this period. Yesterday, once the sun came out, I mustered up the courage to walk the vineyard blocks that we were not able to harvest pre-rain. I feared that I would see grey, fuzzy clusters covered with botrytis mold. Fortunately this was not the case. Because the temperatures were cool and the grape skins were thick, tough and pristine going into the rain, they were resilient.
However on close inspection, I started to notice small cracks in some skins. There was also a small amount of botrytis growing in the interior of some clusters along with a bit of sour rot, which is the worst kind of rot, leading to vinegar production during fermentation. While the incidence of these problems was minimal now, I know through experience that it will get much worse in a hurry. As a Bordelais colleague said to me in 2011: “the fuse has been lit”. The bomb he referred to was a serious and devastating outbreak of rot that renders the grapes and wine unacceptable for a quality producer. Even though weather conditions this week are quite pleasant, we will pick all the remaining reds today. My gut says that the fuse is very short.
Fruit flies, also known as vinegar flies, appeared en mass yesterday afternoon. They can attack wounded berries with a vengeance and turn a somewhat healthy cluster into a vinegary mess in a matter of days.
Most of what is left is Petit Verdot. It has been diluted by the rains, but the skins are healthy. We will do a short fermentation and make a simpler, fresher style wine this vintage. The Cabernet Sauvignon has very nice skin tannins, but not much concentration. It will go into the Claret blend.
Years ago I would have waited to pick. The juice would have regained some of its concentration, but the rot would adversely affect the wine. These resulting wines can have some immediate appeal, but get tiresome after a few sips as their “sweet/sour” profile becomes one dimensional and tiresome.