Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wines I'm Making: 2010 Grape Progress Slow

Since arriving back in the US, the weather has been generally cool, but closer to normal than it appears to have been during my absence--with one exception, a two-day hot spell in the third week of August. That sudden heat spike, following weeks of colder-than-normal weather appears to have hit grape growers hard. Many had picked leaves to expose fruit that was behind schedule, in the hope that more air and sun would speed ripening and avoid mold. The grapes were in many cases still not fully colored, and the strong sun and heat ruined many tender berries. Our Cabernet was better protected and so far has fared well, although the sugar levels are well behind those of last year. The Sangiovese had dropped more leaves than the Cabernet because of water stress (I was hoping to go without watering them at all this year, but gave them six hours on the drip following the heat spike), and some of the Sangiovese berries have suffered, but I still expect to get a reasonable yield.

It the past couple of days, I've been testing random berries here and there. The majority of the vines appear to be at around 17 brix at the moment. At this time last year, the Sangiovese was already at 22 brix. If the rule of thumb about sugar and time (one degree brix a week on average) is correct, that suggests we won't be harvesting for another five weeks or so--or in the second week of November! Last year we harvested on September 29. Our latest harvest to date has been October 7, in 2008. We've picked as early as September 3. The later it gets, the greater the risk of rain and therefore mold--and the more chance raccoons and other animals have to steal fruit. This will be a difficult year unless we have a sustained three weeks or so in the mid-eighties. We'll see.

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