Filed under: Events, Vineyards, Winemaking | Tags: 2016 harvest, Anderson Valley, Nash Mill Vineyard, Oppenlander Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, WineSong
We are just back from a long weekend in Mendocino/Anderson Valley for several Winesong-related tasting events. It’s also the thick of harvest, which necessitated a few vineyard visits as well as picks at another two. Meanwhile, Brian celebrated a milestone birthday, so we tried to squeeze in some cake amid all of the wine work.
We truly love crafting wine and it’s at this time of the year that we are particularly grateful to everyone who is helping to make that possible, including our dedicated grape growers, our talented winemaker Shalini Sekhar, the hard-working staff at the winery and everyone who has assisted with the never-ending logistics, including hauling fruit and pick bins for us. We couldn’t do it without any of you.
The weekend started with A Pinot Noir Celebration tasting on Friday afternoon. After dropping our daughter off at school in San Francisco, we raced up to the coast (it took three and a half hours with rush hour traffic) and made it to Little River just in time to set up our table for the tasting. Larger than in years past, there were more wineries pouring and more people in attendance than we’d ever seen.
It was a cool day in the gardens of the venue (Little River Inn) and a nice kick-off to the weekend. We poured tastes of a selection of our 2013 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir wines and got some nice reactions. Perhaps my favorite of the day was after someone tried our 2013 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Oppenlander Vineyard and then immediately grabbed a pen to sign up on our mailing list, saying, “it makes me want to give away my personal information.” A close second has to be a comment about our 2013 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Mariah Vineyard; a taster described the smell, saying, “I used to say I could go to sleep with this.”
On Saturday, the main Winesong event took place at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. The sun broke through (I’m really glad I brought a big hat) and it was a gorgeous day to be outside pouring our wines. Like the day before, I tried to jot down notes from tasters and one of them commented that I was using “the analog form of data mining.” No matter how it’s described, feedback from people tasting our wines is useful information that helps us to understand how to articulate the smells and flavors that our customers are picking up in their glasses.
Finally, on Sunday we did an Open House tasting event with Panthea on the patio of the Boonville Hotel. It was a nice way to close out the weekend and since it was much quieter than the other two tastings, we got the chance to have more in-depth conversations with people. A few friends and acquaintances also stopped by and it was nice to reconnect. One of the loveliest reactions to our wine (the 2013 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Deer Meadows) was when a taster said that the aromatics led to a feeling of being “in bliss.” In response to that same wine, someone shared a wish that its smell could be infused in a Glade plug-in air freshener for enjoyment of the aroma at home.
We actually didn’t see too many winemakers this weekend up in Anderson Valley or at Winesong. The main reason? Harvest. Most people are hard at work in the vineyards or in the winery this time of year. Because of that, right after Winesong on Saturday, we drove out to Comptche (about a 45 minute drive from Fort Bragg) to see how the grapes were progressing at Oppenlander Vineyard. When we arrived, we ran into owner Norm Shandel and also caught up with a fellow winemaker. Pick bins were stacked just outside the vineyard, one of the signs that harvest is just around the corner.
As we walked through the vineyard rows tasting the fruit, it was also clear to us that our Oppenlander pick is coming up shortly. Grapes had finished changing color to purple and were tasting nice and sweet.
As our long weekend drew to a close on Monday, we also took a trip to see Nash Mill Vineyard in Anderson Valley. As with Oppenlander, we spotted a row of pick bins as we drove up to the vineyard. Bees were buzzing near the sweet fruit and we spotted occasional yellow and vibrant red leaves on some of the ripening vines.
We knew that the pick there would be imminent, but grabbed some sample berries to bring back to the winery so that we could take a look at sugar levels (Brix) throughout the vineyard and also see if there was any variation depending on Pinot Noir clone. Nash Mill Vineyard is comprised of multiple Pinot Noir clones (115, 667 and Pommard) and as we are making decisions about harvest, it’s good to know how they all compare as far as sugar levels, acidity and flavor.
Late Saturday night we had our second pick of 2016: this time from Deer Meadows Vineyard in Anderson Valley. Fruit arrived at our San Francisco winery on Sunday. And, then, we had a surprise pick on Sunday night. More on that later…
Upon our return to San Francisco on Monday, we brought berry samples from Nash Mill Vineyard to our winemaker and watched as she ran numbers to determine sugar and acidity levels on the different Pinot Noir clones that we brought in. Testing affirmed our feeling that we should harvest that night; so we did! Nash Mill fruit was delivered to the winery yesterday.
Now we need to plan for future harvests from Wentzel, Oppenlander and Mariah and figure out how to get pick bins to and from all of the vineyards. It’s a complicated set of logistics that is slightly easier for wineries closer to the vineyards, but that’s part of the deal when making wine in San Francisco.
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