ValleyFogBlog


Harvest 2010: Wentzel Vineyard Crush by valleyfog
October 4, 2010, 9:00 am
Filed under: Winemaking | Tags: , , ,

Wentzel fruit rolling into the winery in San Francisco

After many vineyard visits, finalizing commitments and fretting about the 2010 growing season, harvest is finally here. The big question every year is, “when to pick?” Some winemakers and winegrowers may have strict guidelines about sugar levels (measured in Brix), others go by color of the seed and other visual indications of ripeness, and many more judge just by tasting the grapes.

While we definitely have opinions about ripeness and flavor development, we also rely heavily on the winegrower’s instinct. They spend much more time with these grapes than we do, and so they are probably the best judge as to when the grapes are ready. This was certainly the case with Roland Wentzel, winegrower for his Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley.

It has been a very cool grape growing season in California with late spring rains and a cool summer. A couple of heat spikes have helped prod things along, but 2010 will be known as a vintage for those with patience. As harvest drew near and temperatures started to climb, giving us a proper summer just as fall arrived, growers and winemakers started to check daily on measurements, flavors, health of the canopy (the leaves above the vines) and overall gut feel.

With temperatures rising in Anderson Valley, Roland emailed us and said that sugars were at 23.5 Brix. All things being equal, a range of 24 – 25 Brix is a pretty good target for more elegant, balanced pinot noir. Given that it was going to get even warmer, we asked how many days away we were from harvest. This is the stage of the game where you go with your gut, and more importantly what the winegrower thinks.

A "field blend" of different clones from Wenztel Vineyard

Roland replied, “A sweet spot is when there is a mini-explosion of flavor with a nice acidic edge, not tart and not pruney.  I think we are close to the sweet spot.” This is what we needed to hear. We said okay – and two days later, he delivered a ton of pinot noir from “the clos,” the small block on his property from which we had arranged to get fruit.

The clos is a small parcel with a mix of clones — 114, 115, 667, 777 — and each clone traditionally ripens at its own pace. But these clones were all picked on the same morning, so the fruit that came in showed a mixture of ripeness. There were a few raisins on clusters that were hold-overs from a heat spike in August — this is something that is pervasive this year from the vineyards that we’ve seen. We easily pulled those off the clusters as we sorted the fruit. Other than that, the berries had great flavor, depth and acidity. The clusters were small — some tiny, others elongated — with small-medium berries.

And thus the elevage (the “raising” of this wine) begins. We will tend to it closely, just as Roland has tended to the vineyard, and will patiently, yet eagerly await its progress. We’ll keep you posted on updates, including pressing, and barrel tasting throughout the coming days and months.

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