Journal | August 20, 2018
This week we will take the first sampling of Sauvignon Blanc grapes (always the first to ripen). Shari will run lab tests quantifying sugar, pH, and acid amounts. We will taste the juice for aroma and flavor. While harvest is still weeks away, this sampling and evaluation will give us a better idea as to when we might expect to start the vintage.
All indicators point to a significant shift in this most unfortunate wet weather pattern we have experienced since May. Dry, sunny, breezy conditions give us great hope for a successful white wine vintage. Most of the whites grapes are harvested in September, so we don’t have a whole lot of wiggle room in terms of weather turn around. The biggest concern is rot, as clusters are very compact due to berry swelling with all the rain and wet soils. They can’t handle much more and will become increasingly susceptible to bunch rot as they ripen. Dry conditions will alleviate this pressure.
The vines are still growing new leaves. I can’t remember ever hedging this late in the season. In fact, I just ordered a fancy heavy-duty battery operated pole trimmer as we are getting worn out doing all 20 acres by hand. Hedging or not, this continuation of the vegetative cycle does not bode well for the prospects of having a great red wine vintage. By this time, the vine should have stopped growing leaves and started to put energy into ripening grapes. This year, with so much available water, the vines are confused. In my experience, under these circumstances, white winegrapes can still produce some thrilling wines.
But not reds. I’ve made a decision to dedicate a significant portion of the red vineyards to Rosé this year. Not all by any means, the prime blocks on the best-drained soils still have a chance to make good red wine if the weather cooperates. Rosé requires similar conditions as white wine grapes, even though it is made from red grapes. The grapes are picked earlier and are more dependent on freshness and acidity rather than the concentration and ripe tannins needed for red wines.
This is how we make the best wine that the vintage allows. We’ve had a hat trick of three great red vintages. We just bottled the truly magnificent 2016 Hardscrabble and Avenius Reds, which makes the discouraging 2018 vintage much easier to swallow.