Harvest Update: #SonomaCountyStrong

This past week has been exceptionally difficult for so many, and I truly hope this message finds you and your family well.  A natural disaster of epic proportions has hit our beloved home, and it’s hard to focus on harvest when so much is uncertain. The viticulture department sends its heartfelt thanks to everyone who is doing their part to fight the fires, care for those who are displaced, and keep this harvest going.  

Although I cannot fight the fires right now, I can equip you with information. There are many questions about smoke taint, if vineyards can burn, and what this vintage will look like after all is said and done. This post will serve the purpose of giving you the facts to answer these questions. 

Smoke Taint: This happens when grape berries develop in an environment polluted with smoke. We experienced this in 2008. This is not happening in 2017. What we do have is ash resting on a minority of the vineyards we have left to pick.  In some cases, we have chosen to pick these vineyards because either the vineyard, or access to the vineyard, was in the fire’s path. We picked these vineyards out of our obligation and duty to our growers to get their fruit in the barn in time. Our winemakers are experienced with this (due to the fires in the North Coast in 2015) and they know what to do with these few lots. For the remainder of the vineyards left hanging, we will address on a case by case issue and rinse these clusters in field using orchard sprayers and a high volume of water. Thanks to the 2015 vintage, we have experience with this vineyard cultural practice and it works.

Do Vineyards Burn? No. Vines have less woody tissue than most perennial crops and are very turgid, meaning the majority of their cells are filled with water. The majority of the vineyards in the north coasts are irrigated, so these acted as fires breaks for many of the fires. There were cases where the fires created their own microclimate and tornadoes, and the leaves on vines were blown off. Still, the vineyards didn’t burn. There will be physiological ramifications from this traumatic defoliation for next season, and we will address these issues with careful post-harvest nutrition plans and bud break nutrition plans.

What will this harvest look like after all is said and done? Gorgeous. The quality we have been seeing in tank is exceptional across the board for all varieties, and we got the majority of our vintage in tank before the wildfires started. Here is the breakdown per variety of fruit harvest prior to the wildfire event:

White Varieties

Chardonnay:  100%
Pinot Blanc: 100%
Pinot Grigio: 100%
Sauvignon Blanc: 100%
Viognier: 100%

Red Varieties

Cabernet Sauvignon: 40% (Majority of remaining grapes are grown outside of fire regions)
Merlot: 63%
Pinot Noir: 100%
Zinfandel: 100%

As of right now, we have either scheduled or have picked 84% of all of our grapes.

I hope these numbers bring you relief about the status of our harvest and the outcome of this vintage.

We realize that the last 16% of our harvest will be challenging and we will do everything we can to finish this vintage as safely as possible. Please be good to each other; please be good to yourself and never give up hope, because hope is what will rebuild our home.