Will a slight degree of doubt as to the ripeness of several blocks, I decided to hit the road this morning and check out a couple of vineyard sites. My wife Terri decided to join me along with my dog, Buster. What a beautiful day. One of many beautiful days that have enabled us to move right along with harvest this vintage. We are still experiencing highs in the allow 80’s just about every day. These warm days really help us get to ripeness in cooler sights that are growing late ripening varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon.
Our first stop was at Stillwater Creek Vineyard just north of Royal City on the Royal Slope. My goal for today was determine if my blocks of Semillon are ready to harvest. My friend Mike Januik gets quite a bit of fruit from this vineyard and I wanted to make sure my blocks of Semillon were ready as well.
We put fermenting juice into barrels today. After bringing in Red Heaven & Ciel Du Cheval Merlot last week, on day six of fermentation we pulled these off skins and immediately into barrels. These lots have got to be some of earliest red to be fermented in the state of Washington. In keeping with tradition that I began going back to 1993 I dug out the first tank of the season. I will attach a picture of me in the tank this morning.
The weather could not be better to ripen grapes right now. Tomorrow will be a high of 84 F with temperatures in the low 90’s the rest of the week. i anticipate most of our Merlot will be ready this week from throughout the Columbia Valley, even from some our colder sites. The accumulation of this many heat units this late into September insures the ripening of late site Cabernet Sauvignon. This could mean a great vintage, but let’s make the wine and see for sure.
I had a brief discussion recently with a fellow long time Washington Winemaker in regard to harvest and decisions of when to pick. We both were commenting on the fact that we are often times the first wineries to pick fruit out of block of grapes that could be destined for several wineries. Why is this the case ? We are both not sure of the reason’s but the trend to let the fruit hang longer is definitely changed especially in the last ten years. I sampled a block of Merlot and walked my rows on Monday and got a 25.3 reading from a cluster sample. The fruit tasted great and ready to pick. I scheduled to pick this fruit on Friday, the 14th of September and I will be the first to pick in this rather large block that is a source of fruit for at least fifteen wineries. I worry about over ripe flavors that border on the dried fruit spectrum and super high alcohol levels from letting fruit continue to accumulate sugar. Maybe I just don’t get it. I guess we will keep trying.
As I traveled out to pull a sample at Dionysus Vineyard – Sagemoor Farms today, I suddenly realized that I had sampled this same vineyard and this same block on this exact day eleven years ago while making wine at Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla. I think it goes without saying that we all remember that day in our history and I remember that moment like it was yesterday. Let’s take a moment from our busy lives and remember all the victims of 9/11 and all the people who have lost their lives in the last eleven years serving our country.
Below I will post a few pictures from the vineyard today. The dog in the picture below is our Black Lab, Buster who turned ten years old today.
For Fidelitas and all our partner wineries, harvest for 2012 kicks off today. We will be picking some Merlot from Red Heaven Vineyard on Red Mountain. This is about 10 days earlier than last year. I think this puts us in a more normal year mode from what we can tell right now. I look to probably continue picking not only Merlot, but will probably pick some Syrah and Viognier as well this week. It always exciting but at the same time we all know the grind that harvest can be for the next eight weeks.
This is my twenty fifth harvest in Washington. That first harvest in 1988, I worked with Mike Januik at F.W. Lannguth Winery on the Wahluke Slope. We were making Saddle Mountain, Snoqualmie & the Lannguth Wines. About 90% or more of what we brought in was white wine grapes. Varietal mix included Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon & Gewurztraminer. We did a little bit of Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon but not very many lots at all. Things have really changed in twenty five years. We anticipate doing about 90% red grapes here at the production facility in Richland. Varieties will be Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre, Counoise, Petite Verdot & Carmenere. On the white grape side of the equation we will be processing Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rousanne, Pinot Gris & Viognier. The pictures to follow are from this morning at Red Heaven Vineyard on Red Mountain. We are picking Merlot.
This is my rebooted blog for Fidelitas/Wine Boss. I am determined to keep this blog up and going with updated info, video’s, pictures on a regular basis. Harvest is around the corner and is the start of a new season for winemaking. With this in mind, I am kicking this new blog off.
The site address is charliehoppeswineboss.wordpress.org