Sunday, October 28, 2012

Harvest Update - Another Rain Scare

Read this season's previous harvest updates: What Day is It?, Rain Rain Go Away, Lines of Trucks, Aromatic Gruner Veltliner, Seeing More Good Fruit, Two Pinots, Slow Start, Christian's Report, Vintage is Nearly Here!.

Edna Valley, like most California wine regions, stayed relatively dry during the second rain event to scare vintners this vintage. We received only one-tenth of an inch (2.5 mm) of precipitation here, followed by warm windy days that helped dry out the vineyards quickly. After rushing in our Chardonnay last week and harvesting several hundred tons of reds from Paso Robles, we're left waiting for our Syrah to arrive this week before we'll be finished with the 2012 vintage.
This recent article from Wines & Vines indicates that winemakers throughout California are very satisfied with this vintage. All my friends in the industry seem happy about its outcome thus far. As our ferments tick away at Niven Family Wine Estates, we're all pretty excited about 2012. We're just starting to work on packing away finished white ferments, and dedicating a lot of time to draining, pressing, and barreling our Pinot Noir lots.
I don't think it's rare to find Great Egrets in Edna Valley, but I thought it was interesting to see him perched so close to our crush pad. I guess he must be searching for food in our water treatment pond?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Harvest Update - What Day is It?

Read this season's previous harvest updates: Rain Rain Go Away, Lines of Trucks, Aromatic Gruner Veltliner, Seeing More Good Fruit, Two Pinots, Slow Start, Christian's Report, Vintage is Nearly Here!.
It's been hard to keep track of the days lately here in Edna Valley. Everyday this past week saw over 100 tons of fruit to be processed: Chardonnay was the largest portion, along with some Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. Weather forecasts have predicted rain today and tomorrow for the Central Coast and many wineries (including us here at Niven Family Wine Estates) brought harvesting forward in anticipation of the poor weather. Since the last rain event two weeks ago, warm weather fortunately prevailed and pushed the majority of our vineyards through ripening. We still hedged our bets and brought forward the remaining several blocks of Chardonnay towards the end of this last week.
It's strange to think that Halloween is still ten days away and we've already received the large majority of our fruit for the 2012 vintage. We're waiting only for several hundred tons of fruit scheduled to arrive this week (depending on the weather) and the odd later ripening blocks trickling in throughout the following week. For now, we're all hoping that the rain doesn't get us!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bird's Eye View

I see a lot of Turkey Vultures circling nearby our winery. There are probably plenty of small rodents for them to feed on from the vineyards, especially those injured but left behind by our resident pair of Red-Tailed Hawks. I've been trying to get a photograph of them for the past couple weeks, but they are a little more shy than the vultures.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Harvest Update - Rain, Rain, Go Away

Read this season's previous harvest updates: Lines of Trucks, Aromatic Gruner Veltliner, Seeing More Good Fruit, Two Pinots, Slow Start, Christian's Report, Vintage is Nearly Here!.
The first half of this week was busy at the winery with three days straight of 100+ tons of grapes to process. We saw over 120 tons of Pinot Noir, nearly 50 tons of Viognier, 80 tons of Sauvignon Blanc, and 60 tons of Chardonnay (our first Chardonnay for the season not including several tons harvested for sparkling wine).

Unfortunately, our streak of beautiful weather finally came to an end. Starting Wednesday night and continuing through Thrusday, San Luis Obispo and Edna Valley saw upwards of half an inch (13 mm) of rain fall. I followed this storm on the weather charts since last week, but like many others thought it would miss the area and bring minimal, if any, precipitation. Of course, weather is one of those parts of life and every harvest season that is so magical and unpredictable.
With most of Edna Valley's Chardonnay still on the vines, this rain may cause significant issues for some of the valley's winemakers. I'm sure plenty of wineries were still bringing in fruit yesterday despite the poor weather. Our crushpad crew donned their rain suits and battled the weather to process nine tons of Chardonnay, half a block that our vineyard crew was forced to stop harvesting due to the rain.

We are set to have over 60 tons of grapes arriving at the winery today. This morning's skies still have remnants of the storm, but fortunately it looks like we'll enjoy sunny weather for the next several days. This should dry out the vineyards rather quickly and will hopefully prevent the formation of grey mold.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Harvest Update - Lines of Trucks

Read this season's previous harvest updates: Aromatic Gruner Veltliner, Seeing More Good Fruit, Two Pinots, Slow Start, Christian's Report, Vintage is Nearly Here!.
We had a busy week here at Edna Valley's Niven Family Wine Estates as harvesting finally kicked into full gear. We received about 100 tons a day with over 200 tons of Pinot Noir, 50-60 tons of other reds, and several hundred tons of aromatic whites (Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Albarino). We have a handful of white ferments that have finished already, and a dozen that were just inoculated this past week. Our second group of red ferments are nearing completion, which of course means there will be some draining and pressing. So, it's really beginning to feel like vintage now: the bees have arrived on the crushpad in full force, the cellar smells like yeast, and everyone is logging in long hours of work.

Beautiful weather is still gracing the valley and should continue. We're planning to have another busy week starting today, with 100-ton days scheduled through Saturday. Some cooler weather at the beginning of next week should give us a few days to catch up in the cellar before the second big wave of harvesting hits.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Piedras Blancas' Elephant Seals

One of my favorite parts of living on the central coast is the diversity of the area: small towns, rolling countryside, acres of vineyards, and rugged coastline. I like to think that I've explored this area rather thoroughly but I'm always amazed by the treasures here. During a recent surf expedition, I decided to take Kristin to check out the Piedras Blancas Light Station.

Just north of the famous Hearst Castle, one can find the Piedras Blancas Light Station and an idyllic beach that is home to an 8,000-strong elephant seal colony. Northern elephant seals can be found all along the Pacific coastline of Mexico, United States, and Canada.
I mean it when I say elephant seals are massive; anyone who surfs regularly on the central coast probably has an interesting story involving an elephant seal. These make harbor seals, and even sea lions, look small. Males can reach up to 16 feet in length and 4 tons in weight, while the females can reach 11 feet in length and just less than 2 tons in weight. Nevertheless, they aren't called elephant seals for their size; their large snouts (proboscis) resemble elephant trunks, and allow them to produce loud roars (proboscis are always important as they reabsorb moisture exiting via exhalations).

Elephant seals are renowned for their deep-water fishing habits and their ability to stay underwater for over 90 minutes (the longest of any noncetecean mammal). They mostly feed at depths between 300 and 1,000 meters (1,000 and 2,600 feet) and almost exclusively nocturnally. Their prey includes small sharks, octopuses, squid, eels, rays, and several larger fish species.
We had a fun time watching the elephant seals interact on the beach here. The view point setup here allows visitors to get relatively close to these large mammals in their natural habitat.