Neil & Sue Shay
Harvest is coming!
We feel like we say this with nearly every blog post, but just cannot believe it is already two months since our last post. We are on track for that late September harvest that flowering predicted, as we mentioned at the end of June...
Vineyard Report: We are just about 100% past veraison now, the changing of those small and hard green berries into purple berries that begin to accumulate their sugar and wonderful flavors, while reducing their acidity. We track the sugar content of the grapes and their acidity by picking a few clusters from around the vineyard, and then measuring the sugar content, and pH and total acidity to evaluate the balance between sugar and acidity. At the same time, we taste our fruit, to monitor that balance first hand. We also look at other parameters like the color of the seeds (they change from green to brown as the grapes ripen), and the texture of the skin. If you take a berry in your fingers and crush it, the skin gives up some information about ripeness of the grape and the closeness of harvest: if you rub the red skin of a pinot noir grape between your thumb and other fingers, skin from a ripe grape will readily release red pigment onto your fingers. The last week or two and the following week or two are particularly gratifying, as the grape clusters grow dramatically in size, almost doubling in weight from just before, to just after veraison. We hope you can come out and take a walk in the vineyard, we’re going to be offering a daily tour or two, each afternoon we’re open, to take a look at the grapes, take a taste or two, and maybe bring the refractometer out with us, to make a spot check of sugar levels in the grapes. Keeping our fingers crossed, the long-term forecast is predicting many pleasant days and cool nights that will help ripen our grapes in the best possible fashion!
So this all begs the question, exactly how much sugar are we looking for in our grapes?? There is no absolute answer, but a lot of winemakers love it when their pinot comes into the crushpad at around 23 – 24 percent sugar in the juice. In the wine and food industries, we usually use the word ‘brix’ as an identifier of the percent sugar levels. For example: ‘this week, we expect our grapes to be at around 17 brix.’
Despite the hot days of July and August, we have managed to keep most of our spring-planted vines alive and healthy. Mid-summer, we switched over to a system using a 50 gallon plastic water tank on a home-made trailer which we tow around the vineyard and directly spot-water any grapevine that looks like it needs water. It looks like just about all of the replants we put into the ground in April are alive and well. As a local vineyard expert tells us, the first year is mainly about ‘keeping them alive’....
Winery: We just finished a constant, if not hectic month of work. All of the 2016 wines are now out of their barrels and into the bottle. A week or two ago, we bottled our 2016 Bluebird Hill Estate Pinot noir – exactly one barrel, 25 cases. This is our first 100% Bluebird Hill Vineyard Pinot noir wine, after two years of making PN from grapes purchased from other vineyards. This special wine is now on our tasting menu, and thus far, everyone loves it! We are hoping all of you will come out and take a taste and let us know what you think. The wine is Pommard clone dominant and barreled for two years in French