Usually farmers pray for rain. Especially in semi-arid places like California. Except when that rain comes at the end of the growing season and just before harvest. And if you are growing wine grapes. Typically, we shut off the irrigation water (which is only a drip at the best of times) about a month before harvest . That concentrates the flavors of the berry and creates a greater ratio of skin to pulp. Since the skins give all the flavor, color and tannins, that’s a good thing. So you can imagine the calamity when we get dumped on by several inches of rain toward the end of the ripening. Imagine that happening twice. That’s this season in a nutshell. We never got enough of the hot, 100 degree ripening days, then we’ve been pelted twice with early season rainstorms. In early and mid-October, yet, which is almost unheard of in our neck of the woods!
If you’ve been reading, you know we did a panic harvest of all the Grenache and Mourvedre (the Cinsault, as it did last year, ripened early and was already processed). The Grenache and Mourvedre weren’t quite to the degree of ripeness we would have liked. But the cooler weather is making the fermentation go slower, so we may end up having to leave it longer on the skins in primary fermentation, which could counterbalance things.
By the way, I haven’t written much about the daily doings here at Two Terrier Vineyards — mainly because it’s been such a blur of activity — but also because it’s the same routine I wrote about last harvest. Every day. But for a refresher, here are some posts about the processing of the picked grapes into primary fermentation. (Here’s how we get grapes from picking to crush to primary fermentation vats and here and here are how we take them from primary to press to secondary. )And here’s the daily routine of a Wine Babysitter. Which would be moi.
So it’s been the daily round of punchdown, then take readings to test temp, pH, and specific gravity. In between cursing at the sky and staring in disbelief as even more rain clouds roll in.
Did I mention that grapes aren’t the only crop threatened by this unseasonable rain? My tomatoes swelled, burst and had to be harvested immediately. Since you can’t really can bruised or burst tomatoes (the natural bacteria barrier — the skin — has been breached), I boiled this whole harvest down into spaghetti sauce.
You think I’m whining? Well, you’ll hear the same thing up and down Napa and Sonoma Valleys. I took my brother, who’s in town, to the Benziger Family Winery tour (take the Partner’s Tour. It’s the best tour in two counties!)
So everybody pray for rain to go to someone who needs it. Like the Sierras. That is if we can figure out a way to get the rain to sweep over Sonoma without falling on its way East. Otherwise, 2009 is not going to go down as a good year for Sonoma Cabernet.