Vintage Notes - 2009 Edna Valley, California

All Over

Posted on November 3, 2009

 

It sure came and went this year. Edna Valley has one of the longest growing seasons in California and usually has one of the later harvest completion dates. We received our last load of grapes on the 30th of October, a couple weeks before last year. Still, we didn't finish as early as expected; the rain event several weeks ago put the brakes on an extremely short harvest.

The winery is still busy but the work load has diminished quickly, primarily focusing on cleaning and packing away the winery for the off season. In just under two weeks, I'll be finished with my second vintage of 2009 and unemployed once again.

 

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Pressing Issues

Posted on October 29, 2009

Every winery has a different layout, primarily focused on ease of process for the fruit, wine, and employee. Fruit reception is the most essential winery practice, since you can't make wine without grapes. Our winery receives grapes in either picking bins or gondolas, depending on the size of the load and the vineyard of origin. Half-ton picking bins are more common and require a forklift to dump the grapes into an elevator, which transports the grapes up and either into the press doors or onto the destemmer belt.

If grapes arrive in gondolas, the truck must be unloaded using a stationary crane located above the presses. The gondolas are dumped into an auger, which delivers the grapes to the press belt or destemmer belt.

 (the first picture below shows a 2-ton gondola of Chardonnay being dumped, with the truck on the left. The second shows the auger filling up, while the third shows the press belt delivering the fruit to the press). 

 

Red grapes are typically destemmed, crushed, and transported to their fermentation vessel immediately upon arrival (this is not true for grapes used for rose wines). This is a much more straight forward and quicker process than pressing. White grapes are typically pressed immediately (sometimes, several hours of skin contact are desired to encourage more phenolics in the juice). During pressing, grapes are put into one of three presses and subjected to varying levels of pressure to extract juice (pressure levels are based on factors such as fruit quality and desired yield). Our winery's white press cycle typically takes about three hours from loading to unloading.

 

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Last Week

Posted on October 25, 2009

 

We are officially down to our last 60 tons, which will be received next week. Our last white grapes will be received tomorrow (Monday), while the remainder of tonnage is spread throughout the week. Though no more fruit will be received after Friday, there will still be plenty of work to do. It will be another few weeks before everything is packed up.

As harvest ends, the remaining bottling from 2008 can be focused on. The only 2008 Cal Poly wine remaining in barrel is the Mustang Red blend. I also have some bottling of my own I saved for after harvest, a red blend I created using Petite Verdot, Merlot, Syrah, Tempranillo, Grenache, and Mourvedre. Amazingly, it was able to survive on its own for six months while I was traveling. Despite being rather oxidized and flabby when I returned, it has been revived and is tasting lovely. I also hope to finish and bottle a Pinot Noir Rose I've made this vintage using some saignee juice (juice removed from red must prior to fermentation to increase the skin to juice ratio, thereby increasing concentration). This wine is just finishing fermentation now and is showing some nice, bright cherry flavors.

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Vineyard Games

Posted on October 20, 2009

 

It seems like the vineyard staff must be playing games. My last harvest update said our winery had reached the last 200 tons, which would be split between the beginning of last week and this week. After processing a total of over 100 tons last week and yesterday, we're still expecting another 200 tons to come in this week and next. Last week's stormy conditions brought over three inches rain to Edna Valley, leaving the vineyards quite damp. Luckily, the weather warmed up rather quickly and kept gray mold (caused by botrytis cinerea and forming in continually damp, humid vineyard conditions) from becoming much of an issue. Bunch rot (also botrytis cinerea, but forming in wounded grapes) has set in to several blocks, probably caused by the extremely hard wind and rain creating damage to the skins. We received nearly 60 tons of fruit with over 25% bunch rot (probably already infected before the storm, but not benefited by it). 

 

The reds are finishing fermentation and ready to be drained and pressed before they are racked and barreled. Several red tanks will be drained everyday this week, freeing open-top tanks for the remaining red grapes. Below shows our 3-ton press being dumped after a red pressing cycle. An in-ground screw runs below all presses, transporting the pomace to the holding vessel. Our whites are fermenting through steadily, with nearly half completed. 

I am optimistic about wine quality and would venture to say that this vintage will be better than 2008; more concentrated 

 

flavors and better color in the Pinot Noir and more complexity in the whites. It's still a bit early to start jumping to conclusions since many primary and most malolactic fermentations must finish.

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The Last Push

Posted on October 11, 2009

 

We have another 200 of 1,700 tons remaining on the vines after the last of the Chardonnay arrived yesterday. Despite having significantly less tonnage this harvest than last year, the winery seems rather full. The fast paced harvest is to blame, requiring more tanks dedicated to fermentation simultaneously. A rather large weather event is predicted for the middle of the week, which should bring rain to the Edna Valley. While the rain is welcomed by many farmers, viticulturists and winemakers wish it would hold off a couple more weeks. Any fruit near ripe will be rushed in on Monday and Tuesday, while the rest will be pushed back until the sun comes back next week.

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Nearly There

Posted on October 1, 2009

 

It's still hard to believe how quickly this harvest has been going for our winery. After yesterday, we've received approximately 1,300 of 1,800 tons in our first month. The remaining grapes should easily be in by the end of the month, which would make this a particularly short year (typically we're receiving grapes until nearly Thanksgiving). 

Several Pinot Noir lots are reaching dryness and completing fermentation, meaning that there has been lots of red pressing and barreling this week. All the wines are tasting delicious; good color, structure, and flavor in our Pinot Noirs. The whites are all doing well, just chugging along through fermentation. We're still waiting to receive the last 50 or so tons of Chardonnay, Syrah, and a few other bits and pieces.

 

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Winery Nights

Posted on September 17, 2009

 

California experienced some unusually hot weather over the past month, quickly pushing wine grape harvest into full force. Thus far, we've processed over 500 tons of fruit with an estimated total of just over 2,000 tons for the 2009 harvest. Most of the Pinot Gris and Albarino lots are already undergoing fermentation, along with several lots of Sauvignon Blanc. While we have a few lots of Pinot Noir on site, we're expecting to have the bulk of the crop in the winery by mid-week. The Chardonnay has also began trickling in, along with a bit of Riesling, Syrah, and Zinfandel.

I think the original estimates about a later and quicker harvest have been relatively accurate, although I think the hot weather brought a late harvest forward substantially. Still, the days have become rather long rather quickly, which made for regular 10-12 hour shifts. This means a lot of late nights at the winery for those on the late shift. I was able to time my breaks with the sunset a few nights and take a few shots. Our winery has a great view over the Edna Valley, and a great design that allows natural light into the facility.

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