Regular readers of the Winegrower’s Blog might point out that Winemaker Eric Johnson announced the start of harvest in his August 17 post. Indeed, we harvested two small lots of pinot noir for a rosé and a sparkling wine. Both of these wines are made in a low alcohol, clean crisp style that calls for harvest much earlier than for our classically styled pinot noir. Removing these two outliners from the equation, our harvest started about 1 week later than it has over the past 2 years.
If you visit the winery now, you can watch our cellar crew making wine, but you will be hard pressed to see anyone harvesting grapes. This is because almost all of our harvesting is done at night. This keeps the grapes as cool as possible and also helps with harvest flow because the first grapes are already at the winery when the winemaking team arrives in the morning.
Many people ask me, “how is 2012?” It’s a very simple question, but the answer unfolds over time as we gather more information. Here’s what I can say now. Because this was a relatively dry growing season, we’ve experienced less mildew and botrytis pressure than normal. This generally implies better quality. The crop is about average in size for chardonnay, and above average for pinot noir. I sum it up as “good quality, good crop.” We will have a much better idea after we’ve harvested more and the first wines go dry.
In January, when we conduct our first extensive tastings of the vintage, we can draw more conclusions. Finally, in the late spring of 2013, we will conduct the tastings that will determine the Single Vineyard Selections and the Estate wines for the vintage. That’s when I can more definitively answer the question “how was 2012?”
If you want another person’s perspective of our 2010 vintage wines, I invite you to check out the Wine Advocate Reviews that just came out.
It has begun - Harvest 2012! This week the Talley Vineyards crew picked the first load of Pinot Noir grapes. The fruit came from West Rincon Vineyard and will be used for a special, top-secret bubbles project. Even though we picked only a small amount of grapes, the feeling that harvest has begun is unmistakable.
Harvest is my favorite time of year and I can honestly say it is why I love the wine industry so much. This time of year is filled with critical picking decisions, mornings that begin long before the sun rises, consumption of massive amounts of coffee, long hours of work followed by very little sleep, hurried meals eaten at odd hours or no meals at all, and a complete lack of a social life. That is harvest in a nutshell and while it might sound like torture, I truly look forward to it. It is an amazing thing to witness a group of people, everyone from the vineyard crew to the winery crew, sacrifice so much in order to make the best wine possible.
This year we couldn’t have hoped for a better growing season and the fruit looks first-rate. We will continue to bring in small amounts of Pinot Noir grapes here and there over the next two weeks. By the time September rolls around, harvest will be rolling as well. The winery will be filled with Pinot Noir fermenters as far as the eye can see and the winery crew will be busy with punch downs. The Chardonnay grapes should be ready to harvest beginning in late September and continuing through October. That will be followed by the Bordeaux grapes we harvest from Paso Robles. If everything goes according to plan, harvest will finally be done by Thanksgiving and everyone will enjoy some hard earned rest.
|The 2012 winery crew samples the free run juice from the first pressing of pinot noir grapes.|
This week we started grape sampling our Pinot Noir blocks in West Rincon and Rosemary’s Vineyards. Now that we are at nearly 90% veraison (almost all the pinot berries have changed color from green to purple), it’s time to start watching the sugar and acid levels to determine when each block is ready to be harvested.
Our harvest intern, Patrick, spends the early mornings walking the vineyard rows of 10 to 20 different blocks to sample a mix of grape clusters that accurately represent the maturity of each block. Once the grapes arrive at the winery they go through a mini crusher and are strained into beakers to be tested in the lab. We measure sugar levels in degrees Brix using a digital densitometer and we measure acidity with a pH meter. Check out our video with our Assistant Vineyard Manger, Travis Monk.
Rosemary’s Vineyard is the furthest along, with a few blocks at 22 Brix and a pH of 3.05, putting us just a couple weeks away from harvest. Generally we pick our Pinot at around 25 Brix and a pH of 3.4, but our picking decisions are not made just by looking at the numbers. Flavor maturity, tannin development and visual cues in the vineyard are all key factors in the decision-making before every pick.
August has arrived in seemingly no time at all, which is great because I look forward to this month the entire year. While summer traffic begins to die down, a whole new crowd descends on our tasting room. They are here to taste our Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs from Stone Corral, Rincon, and Rosemary’s Vineyards. These three wines, all set to be released on August 25th, represent the best of what each respective vineyard has to offer. If you enjoy the Edna Valley and Estate Pinot Noirs, these wines share the same winemaking style, but with more structure and intensity. I have admitted that it is the Chardonnays here at Talley Vineyards that are my favorites, though I have two reasons to love our pinots – the vast range of food pairings and the even better people watching.
For instance, if you enjoy Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, how many clones of those varietals can you name? If the answer is none, it may not be that you don’t love your favorite wine varietal as much as “Pinophiles” love theirs. It’s just that while you are drinking your favorite wine, they are spouting off a list of letters and numbers from 2A to 777. Pinot Noir drinkers as a whole tend to want to be more educated more about their wine – they want to know about the punch downs, the cold soak, the yeast, the forests from which the wood for the barrels was harvested. If the last sentences leave you feeling lost, but you want to learn more, visit us for a Harvest Tour to learn all about how we make our Pinot Noirs.
Now to explain my blog title. Pinot Noir drinkers love the word “revisit,” especially as it pertains to tasting more of one of our most popular wines, our Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir. This definitely qualifies as one of the “well-used phrases in the tasting room,” although it is rarely said so eloquently. My favorite version: “Can you hit me again with another shot of that Rosemary’s Pinot?”
Whether you are a diagnosed Pinot Noir addict or just appreciate the varietal, visit us on August 25th for our annual Pinot Noir Release Day. We will be featuring a flight of all five of our 2010 Talley Vineyards Pinot Noirs, plus a secret selection from our library in a five-liter format. Not to mention there will be food available for purchase by a great new food truck, Anna Andriese’s Haute Skillet, and music by Doug Groshart of the JD Project. I hope to see you there!
It’s the middle of summer and there’s lots of fun stuff going on. I just returned from a wonderful family vacation to San Diego. This is an annual family get-together that includes the entire extended Talley family. San Diego has lots of fun things to do: we visited college campuses, we went to the zoo, we went to Sea World, we went shopping, we hung out by the pool.
We had some wonderful food and wine experiences during the trip. Highlights included dinner at JRDN at Tower 23 in Ocean Beach. They pour our Estate Chardonnay by the glass, which is a great match for all the seafood they have on the menu. Everyone loved Donovan’s, widely regarded as one of the best steakhouses in the United States. 2009 Rincon Vineyard Pinot Noir and prime New York steak is a great pairing. The biggest revelation was dinner at the Marina Kitchen, the signature restaurant at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina. Beverage Manager Josh Orr is a Cal Poly graduate who started in the wine industry in San Luis Obispo before moving to Las Vegas where he met chef Seth Aaron. The combination of a well selected and well priced wine list, and “modern comfort food” featuring local sustainable food, was unbeatable. We finished the evening with a fireworks display over the marina and the signature Makers Mark Milkshake with fresh baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Three generations of Talleys were in heaven after that dinner!
Closer to home, veraison makes for fun in the vineyard. This is the time of year when the grapes change color and begin to accumulate sugar. Its our signal that harvest is just around the corner. To learn more about veraison, check out my short video on the subject.
Best wishes for a great summer to you!
It feels like harvest is right around the corner. Although it will be over a month until the first grapes are picked, you can’t help but feel the buzz and anticipation start to build at the winery. After bottling the 2011 Bishop’s Peak Chardonnay and Pinot Noir last week, and now blending and aging the rest of the wines until next year, the work on the 2011 vintage is winding down and the preparations for the 2012 vintage have begun.
New oak barrels have started arriving from our favorite French cooperages, and soon enough we will be dusting off the de-stemmers, presses, and picking bins that have been in hibernation since last fall. The cleaning tasks are not glamorous and are never-ending, but there is nothing like having a sparkling crush pad and freshly power-washed barrel room to get you (or just me!) excited about bringing in those first grapes of the season.
I think most winemakers can agree that the weeks before harvest bring out all kinds of emotions, from hope to excitement to anxiety. With how the 2012 growing season is going so far, it looks like there should be nothing but excitement for the grape quality this year.
The middle of May marks a weather transition in the Arroyo Grande Valley. The cold harsh winds of early spring give way to foggy mornings and gentle afternoon breezes typical of summer in this area. The vines are flowering and the potential crop for the season is largely determined at this time. Warm, sunny weather means that most berries will be pollinated, the clusters are full, and the crop will be average to above average. Rain or cool cloudy weather leads to poor pollination and a small crop. The weather has been dry since mid April and temperatures warmer than average, implying good pollination and full clusters. Since the number of clusters in the vineyard is higher than average, all indications are for a larger crop for the 2012 season.
To follow the growing season, check out our ongoing series of photographs of an individual chardonnay vine in the East Rincon Vineyard.
|Chardonnay Vine 4/23/12|
Springtime is a beautiful time of year in most places. Here in Arroyo Grande, springtime means that the hills are green, the wildflowers are blooming, and our vines are growing. Bud break occurred the first week of March in many of our vineyards and the longest shoots are now 4-5 inches long. As the days get longer, the soil warms and growth accelerates.
This rapid spring growth means two things. First, we have to protect the tender young shoots. Even in our exceedingly moderate climate, frost is a danger. On the coldest nights we run wind machines or sprinklers for protection. The danger typically passes in mid to late April. Rapid vine growth also means shoot thinning--the removal of excess shoots from the vine to allow the remaining shoots to grow more evenly.
|Char Cluster 4-23-12|
Finally, spring time also means the release of our chardonnays. The 2010 Estate Chardonnay, the 25th anniversary bottling, has just been released. It’s perfect with local halibut or the salmon that are rumored to be running off the coast of California right now. On May 1, we release our three single vineyard bottlings from Oliver’s Vineyard, the Rincon Vineyard and Rosemary’s Vineyard. What can be better than springtime, chardonnay and fresh local seafood?