Monday, November 1, 1999
The rain went away on Thursday and our nice warm fall weather has returned. For the most part, the highs during the day have been in the upper 70's. Last Friday Phil Jones came by, the owner of the neighboring vineyard from which we purchased Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. He generously offered the second crop on his entire vineyard to us. I immediately sent Brendan over to do a sugar test and he came back with about 24 percent on average from both the Cabernet and Cabernet Franc. This afternoon, we're going to send Caterino over - the master estimator of crop levels - and our plans are to pick all the second crop tomorrow. I've found from experience on my vineyard as well as others, that the second crop can be of great quality also.
We had a number of people stop in on Saturday and this time I encouraged everyone to participate in barrel tasting our new wines. It was fun and educational for me to taste the Petite Sirahs for the first time and also a couple of the Cabernets, and I was very happy with the way the Cabernet Franc was tasting at this stage. Even the Carignan surprised me. I know I have not been too encouraged by the first week in the barrel, but it now is showing some great depth as well as the usual forward fruit. I particularly enjoyed showing the marked difference in the three types of Petite Sirah. Friday we received six barrels of Petite Sirah from Lambert Bridge Winery. These grapes were harvested from Doug Rafanelli's vineyard located in Dry Creek Valley within the last two weeks. We also have two Petite Sirah clones that I've isolated from the fourth mixed block of our vineyard, one that is softer and more floral than the other. It was just fascinating for me - and also hopefully everyone who tasted - as to how different these three Petite Sirahs are. I am excited about the possibilities for my Petite Sirah blend this year and also the possibilities of blending some of these barrels into my other wines.
Last week I posted the alcohol and pH readings that Brendan obtained from the 1999 harvest. After tasting this weekend, I've come up with a couple of other possibilities but I will not officially change the estimated percentages on the different wines for at least another several weeks. You know I feel that 100% varietal wines are far less interesting than blending another varietal or two into the mix. Some of you may have heard rumors that Syrah is sometimes blended into Pinot Noir in the Burgundy area. If you go back on my records, you'll see that the pH on the Pinot is 3.36 which I feel is too high in acid and our Syrah is 4.03 which I feel is too low. So it appears to me that an addition of a little Syrah into that Pinot may improve the wine. Since acids on the Zinfandel are fairly low, I may consider adding some Barbera or Carignan to that wine. And as I've said before and as every week passes, I'm considering keeping 50 cases of the 4th block mixed area separate. That means I may have to blend in some more Petite Sirah or even Carignan into the Estate Cuvee. A lot of this of course depends upon how the Carignan and Cabernet that we harvested last week turns out. I was also encouraged that possibly the best tasting barrels at this time are the Lane Zinfandel-Teldeschi Cabernet mixture. I've pretty much decided that this particular fermentation will go into the Zinfandel this year.
Tuesday, November 2, 1999
The weather has been warm again. The high in the last two days was 87 and the low 42. These readings are above normal for this time of year, but not unusual. We almost always get a few days in the 80's in November.
We had a very nice neighbor offer us 800 lbs of second crop Zin at $2000 a ton. Brendan thought this price was high, but since it was a small amount and they paid for the cost of picking it I accepted the offer. We were also offered second crop zin from two other Dry creek vineyards, but after sending Brendan out to check the sugar we declined (we would have to pay $1800/ton and also pay for the picking). The sugars were about 22.5 and the quality was variable. We left our options open in case the weather holds up. You see, the cost of picking second crop is so high that most of it does not get harvested.
Caterino and 6 others went over to the Jones vineyard at 7 am and started picking second crop Cab Franc. As I said yesterday Phil and Joanne Jones had offered their second crop for free. I sent Brendan back over to the property a couple of hours later and he was told by Caterino that the crop was more than we had thought. Also it would take longer than we had suspected. It wasn't until 3:30pm that Caterino showed up with 1.46 tons of Cab Franc. I will probably end up paying about $1000 for today. We hope that the quality is good. With the cab included, we probably have another two days. This was one of the reasons we did not go for the zin at this time. This puts us over 3400 cases and I don't want to go much higher with grapes I am not familiar with. Plus I must make sure my side surround speakers are not blocked by these additional barrels!!!!!!!
Wednesday, November 3, 1999
This Crush just doesn't want to end. At one point I thought that we would have a very intense and short season. I was half right. Instead of coming to an abrupt halt after all of our estate grapes came in at nearly the same time, we have continued to get grapes in little by little. Last night was the first night in months where we did not have any grapes fermenting in the winery over-night. You can imagine my enormous disappointment when I realized that I did not have any bins of grapes to punch-down (I almost cried).
Luckily, the winery will be filled with grapes again tonight as we crush the Jones Cabernet Franc that has been picked over the last two days. That will give me at least 4 bins to punch-down for the next week or so. After that I think we're done but with the way this season has gone I'm not ready to relax yet. I 'm ready to Crush into January if we have too! Bring it on! I can take it! Brendan
Saturday, November 6, 1999
Today I am going to see Susie play soccer. Pat has been attending the games every Saturday during Harvest. I thought it was a good idea to substitute for her today. After all Brendan is here to help today. I'll be back about 2pm. We are expecting many customers to pick up wine today.
We ended up harvesting 3.5 tons of 2nd crop Cab franc and 2 tons of Cab 2nd crop--all from Jones. The sugar on the Cab Franc was about 24%, but the Cab came in about 22%. We will see how the quality is--especially the Cab. If it isn't up to our standards, we may make a Neighbors' Cuvee after all and sell it for a reasonable price. After all the harvest of these grapes only cost $10 a case. With the time of processing and bottling, we may only have about $5 a bottle into the wine.
Yesterday I almost got all the entries of my barrels into the computer. This consists of estimating exactly what varietals and what percentages exist in each barrel.---quite a project. As we press we can obtain many different combinations which can taste fascinating and must ultimately be used in our many wines. This is an exciting time for me, because I can be somewhat creative and determine which barrel goes into what wine. ----- Of course the computer does most of the work.