It always amazes me during the Fall how articles come out talking about the grape harvest as a whole – quality, weather, people – and they tend to almost always focus on the ‘North Coast’. Napa, Sonoma, Russian River … I guess these are the only places that seem to matter?!?!?!?
I read an article yesterday, and a few follow up blogs by folks like Steve Heimoff, that talked about this ‘phenomenon’ – with rains approaching that area this weekend, the rush is one to get all grapes in. And then it’s over . . .
Guess what?!?!? Those of us down here in Santa Barbara County are NOT calling it over quite yet. The National Weather Service, who had called for rain in our area this weekend as well as of late last week, has let us know that we are still ‘go’ to let our grapes hang a little longer – and ‘recover’ from the rains we had a few weeks ago.
In the case of that rain, our area did not get hit nearly as bad as our northern neighbors. Whereas rain tallies of 3-6 inches were common north of us, most vineyards had totals of less than 2 inches. Did some vineyards experience accelerated mold due to this rain? Of course . . .but the vast majority weathered the storm quite nicely, thank you, and many grapes that have been pulled in after the storm have been in pristine condition.
There are many late ripening varieties grown down here, including Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, Counouise, Cinsault, and Carignan. At the Camp 4 Vineyard, owned by Fess Parker Winery, we have all of these planted – and then some – and we are planning picks for the next 10 days at this point. The late season heat (and we are expecting 80 degree days for the next week or so) is exactly what the doctor ordered, and will allow these grapes to ripen perfectly.
Christie and I still have syrah hanging at Thompson Vineyard, more Grenache out at Larner (clone 136), Grenache out at Watch Hill Vineyard, and Mourvedre out at Camp 4. We expect to bring all of these in within the next 10 days or so as well – and can’t wait to add them to the fruit that we’ve already brought in.
This harvest may be portrayed in the ‘general wine press’ as a ‘mixed bag’ – wines made with grapes BEFORE the October rains as ‘one score’ and those made AFTER as ‘another’, and most likely, lower. This should NOT be the case down here . . .and I’m confident that those that venture down here to try these over the next 12-24 months will be very very pleased at what they encounter!
Just a divergent viewpoint this morning . . .