Sonoma County Grapes are Excellent Quality
September 22, 2013
Sonoma County In Middle of Big Harvest
Sonoma County’s 2013 harvest season has seen a flurry of activity both in the vineyards and wineries these past few weeks as grapes have ripened at the optimal pace due to moderate temperatures that have allowed phenolic maturity to catch up with Brix levels.
Reports throughout the county show most fruit is being picked, on average, 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule with winegrowers and winemakers pleased with quality and flavors, with some calling it “beautiful,” “gorgeous,” “spectacular,” “inspiring,” and “excellent.”
To date, Sonoma County has harvested between 30%-40% of the total crop, with winegrowers and winemakers anticipating the fast pace to continue over the next three to four weeks to ensure all fruit left on the vines is picked before the arrival of cooler temperatures or rain this fall.
“Harvest is well underway and up to three weeks early for many growers here in the County. The cooler weather in August allowed the flavors to develop, and from all accounts, we are hearing that grape quality is excellent. This has been a very compacted harvest and we’re seeing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot all coming in at the same time, which is pretty atypical. This compacted harvest has winegrowers and winemakers working hard day and night to make sure they’re picking fruit at just the right time for flavor development and to manage the timing of fruit coming into the winery. Things are coming in above average in terms of quantity and everyone seems enthusiastic about the vintage.” - Karissa Kruse, President of the Sonoma County Winegrowers
Here are some quotes from the “front vines” of several of the American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) of the county
“Powerful flavors developing early, good yields, great quality, I’m loving the concentration in this year’s fruit. I think our vineyard manager Tom Gore said it best when talking about the flavors in a cab vineyard as being off the Richter scale.” - Susan Lueker, Director of Winemaking at Simi Winery
”The heat spike in late August, early September pushed brix levels on everything up sharply. Where we usually have 3-4 degrees difference from the north end of Alexander valley to the south we now have 0-2 degrees difference between the ranches. While the brix levels shot up the maturity hasn’t moved as quickly so we’re tasting sweet fruit that still has some vegetative characters to it. We have only picked about 40% so far. The Sauvignon Blanc in Russian R River Valley is done as well as some Sangiovese in Alexander Valley for a Rose program. Last week we began to pick some Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley. Weather looks a little threatening for the next week but predicted rainfall amounts are still very low if any.” – Brad Petersen, Vineyard Manager at Silver Oak Cellars & Twomey Cellars, and Sonoma County Winegrowers Chairman
Dry Creek Valley
“The 2013 vintage is going to be a great year for Sonoma County wines. Our first zinfandel from Rockpile arrived this week and the flavors are incredible. A long and relatively mild summer has allowed for steady ripening across all of our varietals. Fruit is ripening and gaining sugar but still holding on to some nice acidity. Overall, we expect it to be an excellent year. The threat of rain is always on our mind but for now, we power on and remain upbeat. To date, we have harvested around 62.5 tons out of 165 tons of planned production. About 38% of all our fruit is in tank and all of our whites are off the vine. Reds in tank thus far are Rockpile Zinfandel, Dry Creek Syrah, Dry Creek Grenache, and Maple Vineyard Petite Sirah. The last of Chardonnays from Alexander Valley came in last Friday. The only challenge we currently face, is the possibility of rain at the end of next week. Should the rain materialize we will have to accelerate our time line to ensure only the best quality fruit makes it in to a Dutcher Crossing bottle.”- Matt Ward, Winemaker’s Assistant at Dutcher Crossing Winery.
"In the steep ridges overlooking the Pacific Ocean, we have been very cautious about our picking decisions. We have picked about a third of the Pinot Noir and should complete the remaining blocks by the end of the weekend. Waiting a few extra days for flavors to develop has delivered great dividends despite the temptation to get the crop harvested before the rain - forecast for the end of the week. The Chardonnay still needs more time to hang as does the Pinotage. We generally harvest these varieties a few weeks after the Pinot Noir but this year they will be ready by the time all the Pinot Noir is picked. As we did last year, we will be making some Late Harvest dessert Chardonnay - if the weather obliges." – Linda Schwartz, Owner at Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery
"2013 is turning out to be a fantastic year for Knights Valley. On the heels of 2012, it is inspiring to see another extraordinary vintage. At Knights Bridge we strive for excellence and this vintage makes our job easy." – Tim Carl, Managing Partner at Knights Bridge Winery.
“As of Sept 12th, we have 340 tons total harvested from all our AVA sources. So far so good. With a heat spell over the first weekend of September, I am seeing sugars develop quickly, but often times faster than flavors can catch up. I am looking forward to more moderate temps to get things back in balance.” – Chris Louton, Winemaker at St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
Russian River Valley/Green Valley
“Crop yield is comparable to 2012. We picked before the heat spike on Sept. 7 - 9 and our fruit tasted and smelled fresh fruity during de-stemming. Our harvest is complete since we only grow Pinot Noir” - Pamela Gunsalus, Owner at Gunsalus Vineyard
“We're blessed with another great year in the Russian River Valley. Looks like another year where everyone is extremely happy. Winemakers are happy because quality looks great again. Fruit is terrific. Flavors developing nicely with wonderful balance of pH & bright acidity. As of Monday, September 23rd we are about 60% thru Pinot Noir & 40% thru Chardonnay. The warm weather last weekend caused very little damage. In fact it helped to push harvest along. The weather the rest of this week & into next looks perfect.” - Mick Schroeter, Sonoma-Cutrer Winemaking Director
About Sonoma County Winegrowers Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, dba Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW), was established in 2006 as a non-profit marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions. With more than 1,800 growers, SCW’s goal is to increase awareness and recognition of the quality and diversity of Sonoma County’s grapes and wines through dynamic marketing and educational programs targeted to wine consumers around the world. For more information about SCWC and its programs, visit www.sonomawinegrape.org
About Sonoma County Vintners
Sonoma County Vintners (SCV) is the leading voice of Sonoma County wine, dedicated to raising awareness and building understanding of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier wine regions, noted for its heritage of artisan winemaking, distinct growing regions, and extraordinary quality. Founded in 1944, SCV represents more than 200 wineries and affiliates of all sizes throughout the county. Learn more about SCV at www.sonomawine.com