August is when we begin to feel the seasonal pace of things pick up a notch, and everyone knows the deadline of fruit on the vine drives the calendar. There is a wine to go into the bottle, barrels to sort, new barrels to medicine and number, and vineyard visits to schedule in anticipation of harvest.
We’ve had a cool and damp spring that left its imprint on our Chardonnay; the bunches are short and very tightly packed with hard, green fruit. The Merlot clusters in a row right next to them are long and loose, and green as well. With fruit still so immature, we’re guessing that our harvest won’t start until September which gives us a little breathing room compared to our recent harvests starting in July and August. Our harvest interns arrive in a couple weeks – Jeremy from Pessac, France and Rafael from Porto, Portugal. Each year, we all are enriched by sharing the heavy work with interns from different places, with different experiences and opinions about the state of the wine world. Always fascinating to compare notes with them.
Many guests have asked how the fires of last harvest season have affected us. The honest answer is that much of Napa’s red grape crop was still out in the vineyards when fires broke out October 9th. We, and most others in Napa, are still measuring the impact of smoke on the resulting wines. Upwind vineyards fared better than downwind – the impact really was as variable as each vineyard’s location. We have two tanks of wine for sale that we feel will not contribute the quality we expect in our finished wines; aside from those tanks, we are still treating the wines in barrel exactly the same way we would any of our wines. Because we keep all vineyard and barrel lots segregated as a standard wine-making practice until just before bottling, we haven’t had as difficult time as those wineries that routinely blend early in the game. It is painstaking and difficult, but in this case especially, the practice of blending late has served us very well. Fortunately, because there are so many of us affected, with so much wine value on the line, there is an industry race going on to find a solution to the problem of smoke tainted wine. And it appears that several organizations are very close to finding answers. With luck, we’ll all be able to take advantage of technology and bring wines to market from 2017 that show no effect of the firestorm that surrounded us for several weeks. Until then, we keep treating the barreled wine exactly as we would if the grapes had come in pure and pristine.
With the recent County fire near us turning our blue skies gray yet again, covering our cars with ash, we cross our fingers we won’t have to deal with a smokey harvest. And to tilt the scales of heaven in our favor, we now have our own firefighter, named RK. RK arrived several weeks ago with the visit of our friend Mr. Koshida, from Tokyo. RK cheers on the firefighters with a raised baton of golden streamers, and holds in his left hand a tool to smash in the roof if needed. This figurine is in keeping with the Kaga Domain of the Edo period. Coincidentally, the location of the main residence of the daimyō of Kaga Domain is now the site of the Hongō campus of the University of Tokyo.
Thank you Mr. Koshida!