Journal | September 16, 2016
Yesterday was shift day. The shift was a mental one where obsession with acids was replaced with obsession of tannins: the transition from whites to reds. Today we are picking the last of Hardscrabble Chardonnay. It will be a big day in terms of quantity, but the picking should be very easy as the logistics are in our favor: the vineyard is adjacent to the winery (little trailer shuttling time), no bird netting to deal with, large clusters (clone #4) which make for easy picking, and cool, cloudy weather which takes the pressure off of us to get the picked grapes quickly to our cooler. After today the only white grapes left on the vines will be Vidal and Petit Manseng. They both need some time as their flavors are pretty neutral right now, which is typical.behind
Once the decision was made to bring in the rest of the Chardonnay, attention shifted to the reds. We had already run some lab work and the Merlot is numerically ripe, meaning the sugars and acids are within range. Whereas the foundation, structure, and potential wine longevity of whites is based on acidity, with red wines, tannins take on this role. Ripe tannins in the skins and seeds determine winemaking decisions and more importantly, wine quality. Tannin ripeness is somewhat subjective. There are no numbers to associate with, only our perceptions. This is why we will now spend a lot more time walking the vineyard rows, tasting and chewing.
Yesterday Jonathan and I drove over to Capstone vineyard to walk and taste with Andrea. Capstone is just a couple of miles from the winery. This will be their first big harvest of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. Their winery building won’t be ready until the 2017 vintage, so we are helping out and the wine will be made at Linden Vineyards this year. We were surprised at how firm and thick the Merlot and Cabernet Franc skins were. The tannins needed more time. There could be a lot of good material here, but the tannins were still somewhat astringent. We are all nervous about the rain forecast Sunday night, but it seems that it will be short lived, and the grapes are in very good shape, so we decided to wait it out and target later next week as a potential picking time.
We then traveled across Manassas Gap to Avenius Vineyard (In between the winery and Capstone). The young vine Merlot were the ripest we have ever tasted in terms of juice flavor, sugar and acid. The skin tannins had a very high quantity of tannins, but were still too astringent. We need more suppleness to make a potentially great wine. Older vines seemed to be several days behind the young vines. Looks like it could also be next week for harvest.