Nadia on Harvest

This is usually a time of celebration at the vineyard.

We’ve been troubled– I’m sure you are, too– by the recent natural disasters, following, almost relentlessly, one after another. Many of you reached out last week to make sure we were okay. Thank you so much for your concern.

Last week’s terrible fires in Northern California continues to cause suffering and trauma to our friends and colleagues; victims have lost homes, vineyards, wineries or even worse loved ones. While we are fortunate to be spared the horror and devastating circumstances our deepest thoughts are with those who have been affected.

Our harvest is almost 85% complete.  The less than ideal 2017 growing season has proved complicated.

First, our high elevation vineyard in Santa Barbara County produced a bumper crop of grapes that promises to be very flavorful. The Bordeaux and Rhone varietals, as well as Pinot Noir, thrived this year.

Our Vineyard Manager Lino Bozzano predicts strong results from this year’s harvest at Santa Barbara Highlands. “We had a great berry set,” he explained, “which resulted in clusters dense with berries. The vines had a strong canopy to cover the crop to its maturity. Vine balance is ideal and the harvest has come in at a steady even rate.

“The heat waves that swept most of the state were tempered by our elevation at 3,000 feet. We also didn’t suffer from berry shrivel or dehydration that can sharply reduce yields. So we expect our 2017 harvest to come in about 10 percent above average.”

Laetitia, close to the Pacific Ocean, is a far different scenario. Farmers throughout the Central Coast of California have been stunned by this year’s low yields. Our crops were undermined by heavy rains during fruit set, and then by strange, temperamental weather just before and during harvest.

“It’s been an unprecedented season,” Lino said, “starting with record rainfall and ending with near-record heat. Normally, we expect large yields following high rainfall. But this could be the lowest since I came aboard in 2004.

“The major culprits are rain at bloom time and the excessive late season heat. Bloom time [flowering] typically happens by early May. That is when the vines flower and grapes are most sensitive to weather conditions. Grapevine flowers must cross-pollinate for berries to begin developing. If this does not happen, there is no grape.

“Anything that interferes with this has a negative impact on the yield. High winds, strong rains or weather that’s too hot or too cold are all unwelcome during this time. This year, at bloom time, we had about an inch of rain in one week. It caused the grape clusters to be extremely small — because of low berry counts.

“Then, on Labor Day weekend,” he continued, “we experienced about a four-day run of triple-digit temperatures. Our recorded high was 114 degrees Fahrenheit. This has been followed by a series of heat waves that continues to dehydrate our crop. So the yield could be roughly one ton per acre — slightly more than half of our usual.”

We consider ourselves lucky to have two such different properties that balance each other out. We can’t help feeling disappointed, however, when the fruits of our labor are so much lower than anticipated for the second year in a row.

Yet this is the reality — as well as the excitement — of being a farmer and creating a product that people love.

On the winemaking front, Eric Hickey, our Head Winemaker was able to lift our spirits a bit.  In spite of lower sugars at pick, he said, there is an excellent balance of alcohol and acidity in the juice.

Though we’ll produce less wine this vintage, this doesn’t mean you will receive from us anything that isn’t perfect. We are dedicated to our high standards of quality — and your satisfaction is always our ultimate goal.

I am so grateful to our vineyard team at Laetitia and at Santa Barbara Highlands for caring for the vines from start to finish in this particularly difficult year, to the winemaking team for carefully creating it and to you for enjoying it.

This is what we’re all about.

Wishing you all the best,

A vôtre santé,

Nadia

 

 

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