Archive for October 2018

2018 Harvest Update: October 15th

As I look outside the window, it’s noteworthy that the trees are still mostly green, with just a few splashes of color showing. It’s is mid-October and by now we are usually at, or approaching, the traditional peak fall color time. With the warm weather and high humidity we’ve had, the trigger for deciduous leaves to turn color and fall off the tree hasn’t completely arrived. The last part of the week, though, has seen a shift into more typical fall weather. The temperatures have dropped into the 40’s and 50’s creating what could best be described as a big refrigerator for the grapes. The sun is mostly hidden behind clouds (with a few exceptional days), so little ripening is happening in these conditions—it is too cold and too sunless. At the same time, molds, mildews, insects, and other disease organisms are also tamped down, removing some of the pressure we were feeling before to harvest before too much rot sets in.

The plan now is to take in what has to be taken in and let the rest hang if they are still sound. There are sunny days ahead in the forecast, and as long as the leaves are still green and capable of photosynthesizing, we can still gain some nice ground with achieving riper flavSzklenski cf 181010 (1)ors. The picture of Cabernet Franc in the Szklenski Brothers’ well-managed vineyards shows a balanced crop load, exposed fruit, and a clean vineyard floor that allows good air movement through the vines. What isn’t seen in the photo is that because of the heat and humidity in the days just prior to this photo, Botrytis is starting to develop on some of the clusters. The weather forecast was for a period of rain, which would have allowed the Botrytis to take over, so we harvested this vineyard the next day to avoid losing quality. If the weather had held, the vines would have been in great shape to continue ripening. We would have loved to keep these grapes hanging longer, but such are the choices we must make sometimes.

I had a conversation with another local winemaker who buys from some of the same vineyards we do. Both of us have seen conditions in other Eastern US regions, and we both agree that our local vineyards have been very fortunate this season by comparison. Most other areas in the East are having a much harder harvest than we have had, with excessive rain and accompanying disease pressure.

Bob Green
PIWC Executive Winemaker

2018 Harvest Update: October 6th

Planning for harvest began many weeks ago:  reviewing past sales and predicting future sales; taking stock of existing inventory and grower crop estimates; and matching that to sales and predictions of future sales. There are also considerations of the quality of the crop as it appears (and as we hope as it appears to be developing. These are all moving parts, some subject to rapid change, but they are important to take into account and are the basis for making decisions not only for how much of each variety to take in (fruit-wise), but how we put it to use.

We’re now well past the midpoint of harvest, and while we can’t ignore what is happening in the vineyards, we are also increasingly focusing more on what’s happening in the winery. For the most part, we have had a good harvest, both in terms of quantity and quality. It’s not perfect, of course, and as we move through the season, the warm and humid weather is starting to take its toll on the fruit, with conditions more susceptible to rots showing up and potentially reducing yields and quality. Growers sometimes overestimate the tonnage (it’s not always easy to estimate) in a vineyard and deliver less than anticipated.  The well-laid plans from earlier in the season may now have to be tweaked a bit as conditions and information change to ensure that the absolute best quality is realized for each wine produced, and that we meet our production goals for each wine.

So, now the focus is shifting. We’re still in communication with growers, and still checking on grapes still hanging. But as we bring in more grapes, tanks are getting filled up, and space is becoming more of a premium. We’re starting fermentations in new juices, monitoring existing fermentations, and racking fermented young wines to storage tanks and barrels. Successful winemaking requires flexibility and adaptability, and this is where we are now, adapting the plan to the reality of the harvest, as it’s happening.

In some cases, decisions need to be made with regard to a wine’s style.  For example, a Cabernet Franc vineyard might need to be harvested earlier than we would like, but this will make it good candidate for our (new!) dry rosé in the upcoming year. This will allow us to minimize contact with the skins, which at this point have an abundance of less-than-ripe tannins, and would result in a coarse, overly astringent red wine if we were to make it in that style. Luckily, we have other vineyards with Cabernet Franc that are holding up better for later harvest, and these will be better candidates for our classic Cab Franc traditional red wine and our new Scarlet Kisses ice-style wine.

Looking ahead, the first Vidal will be harvested this week, followed by Catawba. After that it’s mostly reds—the Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmine), Teroldego and Chambourcin—to finish up the year.  Stay tuned!

Bob Green

PIWC Executive Winemaker