Journal | September 21, 2016
Today we crush red grapes for Rosé. We weren’t able to finish picking all the ‘corners’, so in between press loads some of us will head out to finish picking. Jonathan is now a slave to the cellar as he is racking (transferring) Hardscrabble Chardonnay 2015 from barrel to tank in order to free up barrels for the 2016 Chardonnays that have just started fermenting in tank. Ever since our 2013 fact finding trip to Burgundy, we have been aging the Hardscrabble Chardonnay a full 12 months in barrel and then an additional 4 to 6 months in tank on lees. This extra time in tank seems to better integrate the oak and lees components in the final wine.
These continued warmer than average temperatures have not only accelerated ripening, but have also presented us with some unique harvest timing parameters. The juice in Merlot is very ripe and soon to be overripe, meaning too high sugar and too low acid. Very high sugars with potential alcohols of over 14% can present fermentation problems, the biggest of which is the possibility that the yeast can’t finish the job and we end up with some residual sugar (sweetness) in the final wine. The quandary is that the skin and seed tannins need a bit more time to ripen. They are not as supple as we would like. Looks like we will slowly get started with Merlot harvest, but may have to ease up on extraction of tannins during fermentation. This would make a Merlot that is lush and plush, not real structured, but a nice blending component.
As is always the case we depend on Cabernet Sauvignon for the tannin structure. Even though Cabernet is still about ten days out from being ready to pick, its tannins are beautiful, much more so than Merlot tannins. We are hoping that the cooler weather starting this weekend will slow sugar production and put the overall ripening back into a better balance.
Bear update: he/she definitely prefers Sauvignon Blanc. Ever since we harvested the Sauvignon Blanc the bear has been scarce. We have seen some scat (bear poop, mostly red grapes) in the vineyard, but not much damage to grapes.