Filed under: Vineyards, Winemaking | Tags: 115 clone, 2010 harvest, Joseph Swan, Larry Londer, Londer Vineyards, Swan clone pinot noir
The 2010 harvest and crush craziness continues as we rolled through our next round of fruit from Londer Vineyards in Anderson Valley. We sourced two different clones from Londer, 115 and Swan. Different clones ripen at a different pace, and impart different flavors. The 115 came in earlier on October 5, while the Swan came in a few days later on October 8.
Ripening this year was a concern up and down the coast as this growing season was very unpredictable. With late spring rains and a very cool summer, dotted with a couple of heat spikes, it was unclear how well and when fruit would ripen. Veraison, the onset of ripening that happens later in the growing season when red grapes like pinot noir change color from green to purple, arrived later than normal.
As we began to adopt the stress that the winegrowers deal with every day, winegrower Larry Londer was great about keeping us posted with measurements on ripening as September marched on. We look at measurements like Brix, a measurement of sugar levels, and pH, a measurement of acidity. In a normal (ha!) year, target range for ripening can be at around 23.5 Brix or higher. But you can’t look at Brix alone. In late September at Londer, we were seeing the 115 go up past 25 Brix, but the pH was still at around 3.2. An ideal range for Brix and pH in pinot noir if you are looking for a balanced, integrated, and food-friendly wine is 23.5 – 25 Brix and a pH of 3.4 – 3.6.
In the end, while measurements are a guide, you have to rely on other factors: flavors – do the grapes taste sour or sweet?; seeds – green, brown, crunchy?; do the berries come off the stems easily and are they pliable when you squeeze them? chewing the skins; and then it’s just gut instinct.
At the end of September and beginning of October, Northern California finally got its summer and a heat wave set in. Temperatures in Anderson Valley were rising above 100 degrees F. The Londers did a fair amount of irrigation during this heat wave, watering almost every day, to allow the grapes to ripen at the right pace and not get burned or raisin-y. In early October, the 115 finally saw its acids drop enough (it’s confusing – pH goes up means acids go down) and catch up with the sugar levels and they got picked on October 5.
Waits-Mast Family Cellars has used the 115 clone in a number of our wines as the base clone, blending in 667, 777 or other clones with it. For some of the vineyards we have used, the 115 has imparted more of a floral, bright red cherry flavor. Londer told us that the 115 on their property yields more of a black fruit characteristic.
When the 115 came in on the 5th, the grape clusters were nice and uniform, small to medium sized berries and a tiny percentage of raisins that we pulled off during the hand-sorting process (the fancy new de-stemmer at the winery also de-stems the good berries and leaves the hard raisins on the stems that get ejected out the other side). It had awesome, rich flavors, which are carrying through, along with deep color, as we punch down during the fermentation process. This clone spent 5 days in cold soak and has been fermenting with native yeasts.
We chose the Swan clone because Larry advised that it would impart more red fruit flavors and spice that would balance out the dark fruit of the 115. The Swan clone, which originates from a pinot noir clone that Joseph Swan planted in his Forestville (Russian River Valley) vineyard in 1969, also ripens the latest in their vineyard, so we were intrigued to see how it would come out in a year where everything was ripening late.
The Swan clone came in on October 8 and was picked at 23.2 Brix and 3.38 pH, less ripe in terms of sugars than the 115, but just as ready. Tasting the berries as they came in, we knew this would provide that bright acidity to the wine as we blend it in with the 115 later on.
The sorting of the Swan was probably the cleanest and easiest sort we had done this harvest. There were little to no raisins and the clusters were beautiful.
We took in two tons (four barrels) of Londer fruit, which is the largest amount of any vineyard we have produced. We are excited to have the extra flexibility with four barrels (vs. two) to blend in different cooperage, clones to create the final product. It all looks very promising right now and as we raise this wine, we’ll do our best to represent everything that Londer Vineyards has to offer.
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