Finishing Our 2012 Harvest

End Of Harvest October 31, 2012
We are picking our last grapes of the season this morning: Grenache and Counoise. It is supposed to start raining this afternoon—probably about an inch, locally. For those that need to wait it out, the grapes can probably handle it. But our stuff is ready and ripe. I take a certain satisfaction in picking our last fruit right up against a storm.

We have been bringing in fruit for six weeks, just a few days longer than average but twice as long as last year and nearly 2 weeks less than our record 8-week long 2007 harvest. At this point Justin and I are working at half speed for safety, but still making a few physically painful mistakes. Winemaking is hard work—as I posted on Facebook the other day I feel like I lost a fight with a bunch of bikers.

The quantities of fruit we have brought in have been huge—and it’s not been just us. Pretty much every winery I have been in contact with has been full to capacity since the second week of harvest. The heavy yields drove spot prices for every variety down to a third of pre-harvest contract prices. This abundance may lead to some temporary softness in the local bulk market, but consumers should not expect to see lower wine prices in a year or two. The dismally tiny 2012 harvest in Europe will even out the global wine supply.

I am so thankful that the quality of the wines we are producing this year is just amazing! This is not 2007—the acid levels in the fruit were nowhere near as high—but the concentration is there, as is the tannic structure. The 2012 wines are going to be more elegant than the 2007s but no less powerful and long-lived. And there are going to be very few low-alcohol grands vins from our area this year—in general, ripeness happened at relatively high sugar levels across the board.

Harvest may be over today, but vintage is not done yet, for me or for anyone else. We have a shortage of barrels here in the North Coast. I’m getting a couple of calls and emails a day from people looking for anything to store in. We are even seeing random strangers walking into the winery asking if we have any barrels for sale. I’m going to be OK if I can find tank space to put wine that is currently in barrel but it is going to be tight.

We have another month of work before we can put the wines to bed. I have a bottling to do as well. I may be able to poke my head up by Christmas. But I’m relieved that our fruit is safely in the barn. Today is a good day.

4 thoughts on “Finishing Our 2012 Harvest

    1. John M. Kelly Post author

      American Tartaric is having trouble keeping acid in stock. Even with big adds at crush a lot of folks are seeing very high post-malolactic pH. The concern is that these high acid/high pH wines will be difficult to keep stable from microbial spoilage (esp. Pediococcus and Brettanomyces). Clarification – I mean keep stable to spoilage during elevage in the cellar. If we can get these to bottle in good shape I expect them to age well.

    2. John M. Kelly Post author

      In my experience the ability to age is not tied to the pH, but to the combination of acid level and phenolic level in the wine. Measured pH on Petrus going back to the 1940s and found most to be above 3.9, none below 3.8 – admittedly, not all wines are Petrus but the point is I long ago de-linked pH and age-ability in my philosophy.

  1. dr

    Interesting. I’m curious: With the balance you outline above, why do you think they will be long lived (per the orig post)


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