September 19, 1999
Low this morning 50
It's 2:00 p.m. and the sun has finally come out after a couple of light rain showers. I'm hoping this will be a start of new trend that will lead to warmer temperatures. I'm also concerned about the Zinfandel from the Lane ranch, which is a different clone than my estate Zin. As I've mentioned before, the Lane grapes always have great color and flavor but in the previous two years that we have purchased grapes from this vineyard, almost half the crop has rotted. I stopped watering my vineyard three weeks ago, but the Lane vineyard continues to be irrigated. I understand that this is a different clone of Zin and also a vineyard I'm not familiar with, but one would think that since the grapes have rotted two years in a row, cutting off irrigation a little earlier might make some sense. I'm going to send Brendan by the Lane vineyard on Tuesday afternoon to do a real thorough sample and I should go along with him to decide whether the rot has already started to set in. Brendan will also do many sugar samples from our vineyard on Tuesday.
September 20, 1999
Low this morning 56; high today 82
Dennis arrived first thing this morning to paint the office, so Pat
and I figured it was a perfect time to escape from the smells and travel
the 30 miles to Santa Rosa to do some shopping for office furniture and
fixtures. Our first stop was Home Depot to do some research on over and
under counter cabinets. We looked at low-end and mid-range kitchen cabinets
(of course without a sink). A couple of hours later, we ended up at Yardbirds
to do a little more research. At that time, we realized we needed to get
some type of a quote and realized that Yardbirds may be somewhat overpriced
compared to Home Depot. Even though Pat preferred the Yardbirds' cabinetry,
I tried to point out that the cost may be substantially higher for equal
or even lesser quality. But the most surprising thing to us was the quote
on a Formica versus Corian countertop. We are wondering whether the nice
saleslady at Yardbirds got the quote right. We're asking for a 12-foot
run of Formica or Corian. She quoted the Formica at $90 and the Corian
at $1200. Could Corian possibly be almost $100 more a linear foot than
Formica? We also did some more research on computer stations for Kate and
Susie, and we're just about ready to order what we need after several days
of "discussions" over the various pros and cons of the different styles/finishes.
Tomorrow, I'm anxious to get the results of sugar tests from the various
sections of our vineyard and the few vineyards we are purchasing grapes
from this year.
September 21, 1999
I had no time today to check the temperatures, but the sun was out just before 10:00 a.m. and we were probably close to 90 degrees this afternoon. There is a tropical storm called "Hillary" moving up our way, and hopefully she is too busy running for senator to cause us too much of a problem. Weather predictions in this part of the country at this time of the year are completely unpredictable. In my 30 years of living in northern California, I've seen that such a storm could completely miss us or it could bring us several inches of rain. Several inches of rain in our vineyard would be manageable. In the Lane Zinfandel vineyard that I visited today, such a storm would cause an almost complete wipe-out. Brendan and I took a trip over to the Lane ranch today and found many bunches of rot, but definitely not as bad as last year. I have finally been forceful enough to convince Steve Ryan and Jason and Hank Lane to turn off the water to that vineyard for the next two weeks. We did have a sugar test of obvious ripe bunches from that vineyard, yielding a reading of 24 percent sugar. The vineyard is so inconsistent, bunches could probably range anywhere from 14 to 25 or 26 percent sugar. I'm thinking about sending Brendan off again in a couple of days to cut off more fruit. Potential rot is obvious to forecast in Zinfandel. You cannot have bunches close together, you cannot have big bunches, and you cannot be irrigating vines when the bunches are ripening. But is hard to convince growers or vineyard managers when they see all the large bunches and potential benefit from harvesting a big crop.
The Simpson Syrah was also checked this morning by Brendan and we had a solid reading of 23.9 brix. Syrah is much more consistent than Zinfandel, and my guess is that there are probably no bunches in that vineyard under 22 percent sugar. Since the acids are starting to fall off, I would like to harvest these grapes this week. We had our first session of indecision today on when to harvest. I will go into more detail on one of these typical days later in the season. Suffice it to say, there were at least six phone calls between Steve, Bruce Simpson and I to decide on Thursday afternoon as the potential harvest date. Obviously, this could change depending upon the potential imminent storm.
We did many more tests throughout our vineyard and found that the Barbera was the only varietal ready to be harvested at the same time as the Simpson Syrah. Hopefully, there will be a heat spell developing within the next few days and may actually lead to harvesting some of our Zinfandel areas.
Wednesday, September 22, 1999
Low yesterday 50; high yesterday 91; low today 60; high today 92
I was awakened in the middle of the night with what I thought was a piece of plywood falling onto my deck. After being awake for a few seconds, I realized it might have been the start of a thunderstorm. We ended up having just a light brush of rain and humid weather and then warming up in the afternoon to 92 degrees. A nice couple from Manhattan came by today and we talked briefly about the unusual weather we were having. They were on their honeymoon traveling from Manhattan and had had our '98 Estate Cuvee at The French Laundry last night.
Today we had our Pergo flooring installed and a delivery of furniture for our new office. We also re-did our sugar tests from yesterday.
I'd like to go into a little more detail on our sugar tests from yesterday and today. We did sugar samples yesterday and as usual, many of them did go up overnight. There is a certain amount of sugar that can develop after soaking for a period of time. Of course, this sugar will also increase the potential alcohol. So even though we did get a reading of 22 percent on the Zinfandel from the wire, it did swell up to 22.6 overnight. Also, the Lane Zinfandel was 24.1 on a select sample yesterday and swelled up to 24.9. We must consider this possibility in the potential harvest. Here is a synopsis of yesterday's results and this afternoon's results. The Zin from the 3rd and 4th blocks of our estate vineyard was 21.9 vs. 22.3. The Petite Sirahs from two different areas went from 19.5 to 20.2. Our Barbera went from 24.2 to 24.6. The Malbec went from 21.4 to 22. But it's interesting that the Cabernet from the Aca Modot area does not swell up. It was 20.8 yesterday and 20.9 today. Also the same can be said for the Syrah from the Simpson vineyard was 23.9 yesterday and 24.0 today. I found this to be consistent with my past findings on Cab and Syrah. My theory on this is that both varietals are very loose bunches and are very consistent in the size of the berries. In other words, the berries do not touch each other and do not have any chance of forming a union that can create a certain amount of shriveling or raisining, or even forbidden botrytis (or noble rot---actually Brendan and I love rot, if it tates good and leave it in our fermentations). Zinfandel especially will always have even in minute quantities a certain amount of rot or even raisining that you don't necessarily see until the swell-up or the start of fermentation. I will go into more detail on this when we start harvesting our Zinfandel, and as I will explain later, this creates a great deal of unpredictability regarding the potential alcohol after fermentation.
Thursday, September 23, 1999 Low 56
After a slow start Crush is finally rolling' ahead. We pulled in the first of the red varieties for the season. This consisted of the Syrah from Bruce Simpson and our Barbera. The Syrah looked beautiful. Bruce Simpson does a great job of growing these grapes. They are always uniform, with great color and deep, dark purple/black coloring. The tonnage this year was a little low at about 1.6 tons but the quality of the fruit was excellent. The sugar for the syrah came in at 24.6 and the pH was 3.68.
Our Barbera came in at about 23.4 degrees brix and had a pH of 3.10. This is about what we expected from the barbera. Dave originally planted the Barbera so that it could balance out the often low acid of the Carignan. It has so far lived up to this purpose with extreme acid levels even at 24-25% sugar. In addition, this year has very high acid readings on all of our varieties.
In general we look for a pH of about 3.4-3.6 which roughly corresponds to a TA of .65-.75. TA is Titratable Acidity and is the physical measurement of grams of acid per 100 ml. TA is loosely associated with pH and is inversely proportional. The higher the TA , the lower the pH. This year there are abnormally low pH readings. From talking with other winemakers we are pretty sure that it is being caused by very high levels of Malic Acid (one of the predominant acids wine grapes). This acid should drop off significantly as the grapes get riper.
In other news I have been trying to get Susie to adopt an orphaned animal. It is a baby Grape Horn Worm that needs a home (I think I'll call him Leroy). I tried to get Kate to take it in but the fact that it was a fat, leathery larva made adoption unlikely. Susie on the other hand is more of an animal person so I thought I might get her interested. No such luck. She wouldn't even let me keep it in her room. Where has all the compassion in the world gone? Maybe Koovy would be interested?
Friday, September 24, 1999 High yesterday 86, Low today 49, High today 86
The hot weather has not materialized, but sugar readings are moving up anyway. We hope to harvest the Lane Zin Tuesday afternoon. The children's furniture for our remodeled office was put together today. Kate and Susie are excited. Our two new computers are coming Monday. Pat and I will have to wait for our backordered furniture.
Saturday, September 25, 1999 Low 47
I awoke today to clear skies!! The first morning in weeks without fog.
We need heat!!!!
The high today was 95 and I heard from a few people that the sugars are on the rise. We will probably start on our Zin next week.