Prelude to a Post-Harvest Post

This past Friday I was attending a little post-harvest  celebration with “the wife” where I had the opportunity to meet the guy who does grape sourcing for her company, I’m assuming for many of the brands.  Anyhow, he was chatting with the general manager and winemaker from “the wife’s” winery and was telling us about some of the growers’s situations.  This year has been a rough one, if you’ve read the papers or some of my earlier posts about the weather you may have already heard it has been challenging.

My Spring post: http://norcalwingman.com/2010/05/27/what-happens-when-grapes-get-wet-feet

A follow up regarding the cool Summer: http://norcalwingman.com/2010/08/03/what-good-is-a-bunch-of-cold-grapes.

So, this sourcing manager was recounting a story about a vineyard that got a touch of the first frost of the Autumn (this last Wednesday).  The canopy of the grapevines were completely wiped out, and the grapes were shy of harvesting level brix.  Without leaves, the grapevines can’t continue pumping sugar into the fruit.  That’s bad news for growers, because without enough sugar in the grapes, their crop is worthless.

I rarely think about this aspect of wine.  I’m usually on the final destination side (yep killing wine by pouring it down my gullet).  Imagine spending an entire growing season, fully expecting to sell your crop after tending to it for a full year.  Caring for the vineyard, by minding the soil pH, checking for and removing pests, pampering and optimizing each and every vine, all for nothing.  Every dollar that was pumped into making the grapes grow, spent and gone, with the assumption that you could sell it, even having a contract that assuring you that you would have someone to buy it.

Here are some articles from local media sources talking about the funky year:
(Harvest Starts)  http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20100828/ARTICLES/100829453
(Coastal Fog Affecting Growers)  http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20100806/news/8061043
(Rain Stalls Harvest) http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20101021/BUSINESS/101029864/1350?Title=Weekend-storms-will-stall-grape-harvest-

Anyhow, harvest is over here in Sonoma County.   I’m sure some growers may be picking their hanging fruit, hoping that the sugar is somewhere in the acceptable range, but after a full week of rain and cold, I’d say there isn’t much hope for them.  I’m going to try and get out to interview some more winemakers and growers to see how the season turned out for them.  I’ll try and talk to some viticulturists too and see if we can get some insight into what impact this year may have on next year’s growing season.

But now, I’m going to pop open a bottle of the stuff we all love, and toast the growers who are affected by this FREAKY 2010 season, may next year bring better luck and prosperity!

Cheers and Happy Halloween from The Norcal Wingman!

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5 thoughts on “Prelude to a Post-Harvest Post

  1. Brian if we could get a moratorium on all bloggers, traditional media, non-traditional media, naysayers, negative nelleies, and the like posting posts about how “over” this season is Thomson Vineyards and our Merlot would really appreciate it. It’s all site specific, every vineyard is farmed differently which has an affect on how long the fruit can hang out there, every canopy has a different strength, every varietal has differing a likelihood that it can still be harvested in November or not.

    I hope that you are able to portray this in the post harvest post you’re preparing. We’re thinking happy thoughts for our mountain Merlot and would appreciate the positive sentiment from all the generalizers out there!

  2. Jen,
    My apologies if I’ve offended you. You are absolutely right, every microclimate throughout the County has had different outcomes from the screwy weather we’ve had. I was recounting a conversation I had with a Sourcing person about a single vineyard that was pretty much decimated by that frost we just had.

    I wish nothing but the best and warmest thoughts that I can muster, in the hopes that growers like yourself can turn this year into something great. However, the majority of what I hear (not from generalists and blobbers like myself) is not painting a pretty picture for Sonoma County.

    Now, that being said, I did just attend a tasting event at Sonoma State University a little over a week ago, focused on Lake County wines, and they haven’t had nearly the troubles with the weather.

    So, again, my apologies for spreading a gloomy message, and yes, I hope to include stories and experiences from all sides of the harvest & growing year.

    All the best
    Brian

    1. Hey Joe,
      I can’t remember a year that had this many weather challenges. In 2005 “the wife’s” aunt and uncle’s cabernet didn’t get picked in time and got some pretty bad bunch rot, but they were at least at harvesting brix, it was just bad luck they didn’t harvest in time.

      I’m guessing that I wasn’t into wine the last time the season was this effed up!

      Good question though, I’ll ask around for my follow up post!

      Cheers
      Brian

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