The Crush Chronicle Finale

It’s a wrap! Yes, it’s true! The 2016 harvest for Laetitia and Santa Barbara Highlands was officially completed last Wednesday. It’s both a happy and sad time for us. The hard work we’ve done all year has paid off, but now we must start again, planning and thinking about the year to come.

For me personally, it means no more daily emails with orders from Lino detailing the next day’s pick—emails I vey much looked forward to!  For the vineyard workers it means tending the vines for winter, and for the cellar employees it means watching the flavors develop in the wine barrels till we eventually bottle this vintage within one to three years. So on the bittersweet note, it means we have a lot to do before harvest again, and before seeing the fruits of labor turn into the delicious wine we hope for!

But to give you, dear reader, the full picture of harvest 2016 I asked our father/son winemaker team Dave and Eric Hickey for a quick recap of the challenges and excitement of harvest this year.

Dave referred to the weather’s lack of cooperation:

“The biggest challenge for me was the weather patterns of July and August. By the end of July it looked as if it would be an early harvest with possibly all of my fruit to be picked by the end of August. That was not the case as August turned out to be a relatively cold month and the ripening of the fruit slowed down.  It was a “hurry up… and wait” feeling as everything was ready and we were anxious to bring the fruit in. It was a test of our patience, but in the end it provided more ‘hang time’ for the fruit and excellent quality wines.”

And Eric discussed the heat spike the week of September 26th:

“I would say one of the biggest challenges was having 50% of the Pinot Noir sitting at 23 brix waiting for just a little bit of sun and heat to move things along, but instead of a day or two of heat, receiving six days of an inferno.

Although the yields were affected, fortunately the grapes did not take on a ‘pruney’ or ‘
over ripe’ character that could be transferred into the wine.”

Highlands was not affected the same way, it was actually cooler in the mountains than on the coast during the heatwave.

Overall, I am very happy with the year quality wise.”

Let’s remember we’re only farmers and although we’d love everything to go by the book there never really is one. Weather rules! Mother nature has her own plan and the trick for us in 2016 was catching the grapes at the optimum time!

Lino Bozzano also chimed in on the crush:

“Surprisingly good.  Yields preformed just below average and quality is up.  We had a hotter than normal Fall which caused some panic and dehydration, especially at Laetitia.  For the most part disease and rot incidence was low.  I’m predicting 2016 to be a standout vintage.  The personal highlight for me is harvest started and we were on a constant picking schedule until the end. There was good momentum and enthusiasm throughout.”

A few numbers for you.

How many tons were harvested?

Laetitia: 1,217.90

Santa Barbara Highlands: 3,483.40

Whites versus reds?

Whites: 635 tons

Reds: 4066 tons

Observations on grapes?nadia-wig

“The grapes were showing what seemed to be extraordinary acid balance throughout the growing season which held up through harvest and should be expressed in the bottled wine. This is remarkable when you consider this year’s lengthy growing season” Dave Terry, Viticulturist.

So now it’s back to the rest of our business, making great wine and selling it. There’s energy to this part I love, I’m so looking forward to speaking this Saturday at the American Wine Society annual conference in Costa Mesa!

It’s truly an honor to be asked to speak for a second time in front of AWS members. Last time it was on Halloween and I looked like this.  I don’t think I can get away with the wig this time, but I have my ‘stylist’ looking into it!

All the best and thank you California for the recent rain.  Long may it continue.

You never know where life will take you.


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