September 2011 Archives
Hank Wetzel mentioned this morning that working under tractor lights was just as crucial during his first AVV crush - but for a very different reason. " Our first harvest in 1975 - was a very cool growing season with average size crop. I was grateful that harvest was late as I had a lot of infrastructure to prepare and a lot of equipment to install. The first day of harvest my parents arranged dinner for all partners. Of course, the equipment did not work as expected and we ended up crushing grapes by tractor light. I remember feeling helpless at times during harvest as I was doing so many things for the first time, but in the end the wines sold well. The Chardonnay in particular from that harvest received rave reviews from the local San Francisco buyers. "
Think the pace slows down once the sun sets durng harvest? Not at AVV. Our harvest crews are working the night shift so that they can deliver the best fruit possible to the winery.
Winemaker - Kevin Hall writes today: "The very warm weather has kicked the winery into high gear. We have been bringing in Chardonnay, Syrah and lots and lots of Zinfandel. The flavors from the Zin are great. At this stage it is all about fruit flavors of raspberry, cherry and plum. The spicy side of Alexander Valley Zinfandel usually shows itself once fermentation begins. Dry Creek Zinfandel will display a spicy side from the beginning. I was out in Dry Creek today and the fruit looks good. I have scheduled the harvest of the first dry creek zin for next Monday. The weather is going to cool down dramatically over the weekend with a very slight chance of rain on Sunday.
In the winery we are busy inoculating the tanks and racking settled Chardonnay juice off of its lees. We will start to barrel down some Chardonnay juice for barrel fermentations. I have included a picture of one of our crew "Carlos Martinez" prepping French oak barrels for Chardonnay."
We brought in Sangiovese yesterday for our Rose'. After destemming the fruit was cold soaked to get the desired color. Then we wait..... and check......and wait.....and check..... Well you get the idea. After about 5 hours the color was just right. The night crew drained off the juice and dug out the skins, then we pressed. The juice went back into tank and it's now settling out.
Today we picked most of our Estate Pinot Noir including clones 115, Pommard and 777. We are still waiting on 2A, thought it looks likely that we will be picking that next week. Our crews are heading up the hill to pick some zinfandel, then we start harvesting the Chardonnay in front of the winery tonight when it is cool to maintain the bright acidity level in the fruit. The winery is now going 24/7 thru harvest.
The question we are most often asked: "How's the vintage?" While it is way to early to get a true vintage report, Kevin Hall says "the zinfandel so far is looking good, yields are down (as expected), but quality is superb. We are getting some good raspberry flavors and not alot of overripe fruit."
Saturday, we celebrated the start of harvest with AVV's annual Harvest Party. Wine lovers got their chance to see what it is like to harvest ripe fruit, crush a little and then enjoy the rewards. It was a great kick off to the what looks to be a good harvest.
Kevin Hall writes: "Next week is going to explode. We will bring in the Pinot, Sangiovese for rose', some Zinfandel and start Chardonnay. Everything looks great and has been hovering at the same maturity level. We have had a few days of heat and this week end is supposed to be warm so everything is going to jump. So far acidity is up which keeps those bright fruit flavors up front."
Finally, two weeks later than normal the grape harvest has begun for Alexander Valley Vineyards. The first grapes to be harvested are from the Gore vineyard in northern Alexander Valley. This cool prolonged growing season will go down as one of the latest starting harvest on record. Yields are much smaller than normal with few clusters per vine and clusters with many small berries.
Today I sampled the grapes from some of our Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel vineyards. The nights and mornings have been very cool and even though we reach temperature in the low to mid eighties it is only for a few hours in the afternoon. The grapes are maturing, but at a very slow pace. The pinot noir clones are starting to differentiate themselves at this stage. Currently, clone 115 which has very small berries and small clusters is the ripest if you look only at sugar content. I am still waiting for more flavor development.
I also checked a Zinfandel vineyard that we use for SinZin that is located in Cloverdale. Cloverdale is warmer than at the winery and the grapes are further along. I think we will be harvesting the "River" block of Zin from the Gore vineyard on Thursday or Friday. The grapes are tasting great, so this will officially the first grapes of the 2011 vintage.