Mid Harvest Report From the Winemaker

We feel as though we’re in a suspended state of calm before the storm, waiting for the grapes to ripen and the madness to begin. This growing season of 2011 has definitely been one of those examples of good-gone-bad. A fantastic rainy winter season left us with a severe late frost in April that caused our county to declare a disaster for growers. Our early “budders”, those vines that break out of the winter doldrums first, were damaged ruining our crop. At first we didn’t think we had significant damage, but now that we have harvested those early varietals, the proof is in the pudding: 500 pounds of Viognier harvested from 1 acre, 1200 lbs of Syrah from 2 acres, 800 lbs of Tempranillo from an acre, and on it goes. Even for AmByth these are tiny crop loads. Our goal is 2 tons of fruit per acre. (An average irrigated vineyard yields 4 to 10 tons/acre.)

A friend said the other day, “Why go to Vegas when you can farm?”. Perhaps this is why some little inner workings in me decided to make 17 different wines with the 2010 vintage (which was incredibly bountiful). We have single varietals of Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, Counoise, Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache, Zinfindel, along with our standard blends: Priscus, Adamo, ReVera & Maiestas. The 2011 will be limited, but variety will still abound as a combination.

Because of the cold growing season, our harvest has started later than usual again. But as things progress, it looks like we will wrap us as usual, right at the end of September. The Sangiovese, Grenache and Mourvedre crops are looking strong, and despite the cold spells, they keep advancing toward maturity. Thankfully, the 2011 Counoise crop is looking quite handsome–our new darling in the winery is the 100% Counoise 2010, hopefully the ’11 will only be as delicious. We thought we would have to aide grape ripening a bit by applying a series of egg shell teas, but the vines are taking care of themselves.

A small change for 2011 in the winery: we are fermenting in the garage of the house (true “garagistes”, we are!). As the winery is now climate controlled for aging wine and storing case goods, it’s a little cool for the smaller fermentations to take place. Our garage stays at a constant of 75 degrees, so voila!, perfect temp for fermenting. Fortunately, we did have this alternate location in our minds ‘back in the day’, so it is perfectly legal and bonded.

Cheers, Phillip

Pictures: Bede punching down fermenting Syrah (top); Phillip taking brix measurements on just-picked Zinfandel