Posted by Jason Saling
What an interesting year… Super-hot winter months, low rainfall, early bud-break, cold spell in April and May (through bloom), prevalent morning marine layer throughout the summer with a couple real heat blasts, but short lived. And again, “low rainfall” is a total understatement of the overwhelming havoc that the drought has been wreaking on California.
Drought or not, it has been our lowest irrigation demand year in the last 6 vintages while I’ve been here. That is truly phenomenal. I would like to attribute most of that to the massive amount of work we’ve done to balancing the soil health and build healthy root systems and mature vines, but it is also, curiously, partially due to the fact that this year, as crazy as this sounds, has just barely caught up with the growing degree days of 2012 in this area, and significantly behind 2013 and 2014.
Even with the relatively mild summer weather, the early bud-break has lead us into an early harvest. Not only this, and it remains to be seen, but harvest this year could be very quick and very intense for our vineyards if everything tracks together like it did at bud-break.
Harvest went quickly and smoothly this morning. The vineyard team met in the barn at Adam’s Vineyard (our newest vineyard with two-year-old vines). We picked out the three separate clones, Mt. Eden, Calera and 667, and had them to the winery by 8:30. The fruit looked absolutely stunning.
Here’s how our picking team is organized; when we start the harvest, the picking crew is divided into 4 separate “row” crews. We pick 4 rows at a time, 2 on each side of the tractor row. These 4 crews always stick together and always pick in the same row.
We decide a couple of weeks prior to harvest based on strength, speed and agility to try to balance each of the rows in a fashion that keeps the entire team and all four rows moving along at the same pace. This is another huge benefit to spending the summer (and in the case of the fastest guys and row leaders, years) working together with the same team as we’ve already figured out who has more agile hands, stronger backs, and faster legs than the others so we get this pretty close.
Is there such a good thing as a good night’s sleep when you’re alarm wakes you up at 2:30? According to me, there is, and last night was it. You see, 3 nights ago I got up at 1:30 to get going, as I’ve mentioned already,,, but then 2 nights ago I reset the alarm for 2:30, but my body wouldn’t let me do it, having woken up at 10:30 PM, 12:30 and then again at 1:24 and then unable to go back to sleep I just got up and got the coffee on, did some reading and then hit the road, accepting that was the deal for the day… that’ll catch up with a guy. Last night I hit the hay at 7:45, unable to conceivably stay up any longer, only woke up once that I remember, again at 1:21ish, noting that I rolled over and asked myself if I was going to be able to get back to sleep and whammo, woke up to my alarm at 2:30
This morning really felt genuinely cold. I checked the weather station and we were at 41 degrees around 5AM. This year we’ve been picking most of our fruit at or around the mid to high 50’s and one night it was coming in and it was above 60 degrees. That is unusual an probably function of the warm sea temperatures not cooling the air mass as much as usual. I believe that has contributed to the pH’s catching up with the brix for this vintage. Well played, Mother Nature, well played. Time will tell, but the berries and the clusters are tiny and they taste amazing!
Between Susanna’s and QH we are just about 44% harvested.