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2010 Harvest Recap and Farmer’s Ponderings

I must have read so many of these harvest notes over the years from so many wineries that I could probably just make it all up and it would pass muster.
For the 2010 Harvest, there is no need to make anything up. To get a sense of perspective, our vines are mostly 5th and 7th leaf. Before the significant rains of this last year, these dry-farmed beauties had been dealt a pretty rough hand. We experienced three years in a row of drought-like conditions: 12 inches, 5″ & 9″ total rainfall. It’s tempting to think our vines were saying, “We’ll stay alive, but don’t expect more more!”, hence the 2009 harvest of 9 tons off of 15+ acres. (This is why the overwhelming majority of growers irrigate.)

This year was a game changer! We had 24 inches (!!) spread out nicely over the Winter months even extending into Spring…perfect! Bud break came along at a normal time for all of the varieties, very little shatter occurred (or loss of crop due to a possible myriad of factors), and all looked exceptional. Of course, this is farming, nothing quite works that way!

Crazy weather entered the mix at the summertime mark, and we were faced with a cool summer …All of a sudden we thought we were in Oregon which would have been perfect if we grew Pinot Noir! Now really strange things started to happen in our vineyard. With the exception of the Grenache Noir everything ignored the weather and continued to grow normally, perhaps a tad later than usual, but not dramatically so. Most strange was the Mourvedre: the grape that likes heat most of all , sprinted toward the finish line ignoring all. Or course, this was once again all too good to be true.
A massive heat spike in August–109 degree temps, amongst pleasant 70-80 degree days, caused our Syrah to think the sky had fallen in! We went in to the vineyard to take samples and instead of the robust, beautifully shaped bunches, we found shriveled raisins…disaster! (Refer to previous entry.) At 6 o’clock the next morning, we anxiously went back to the Syrah vineyard, and perfect again! With the exception of about a 5% loss, the grapes had rehydrated themselves overnight. I asked a knowledgeable Syrah grower if he’d ever seen this. “No” he said, “It can’t happen, once the grapes shrivel up it’s basically all over.” Our Syrah had obviously not been told this. When we picked the main Syrah crop on September 3rd, it came it at mid-to-high 23 Brix level…perfect! Dry farmed? Biodynamic? Terroir? I don’t know, but Thank You.

We have 10 different varietals, and PlayGround (a blended planting of Rhone varietals all mixed up with each other), so I could relate 11 stories. Too much for here, I won’t bore you. The net result of this most interesting year was a slightly later start and an early finish, so our work was compressed. Our crop of 20 tons was more than double last year and on target for our eventual goal of 2 tons to the acre. The flavors and numbers are perfect and with any luck the wine of AmByth Estate will continue to stimulate conversation in the uniqueness of character due to our wonderful Earth system called “Nature”. Deo Gratias.

-Phillip