Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cerro Prieto & Paso Robles' Westside Red Wines...watchful, worrying, waiting

I obviously cannot speak for other Westside producers, but I can sure speak for Cerro Prieto. We actually had to water just before and during Labor Day weekend, when temps rose to 105 degrees and northwards. Each vine got 3 gallons of agua prior to the heat wave. Then, 2 beautiful days in the 80s to 90s, followed by the "brisa" last nite, and this evening we watched the fog roll in...massive fog that encompasses everything. Today was a typical fall day, beautiful in the 60s and 70s here, but it really cooled off when the fog bank rolled in. Forecast is for more of the same, which means, with barely any summer, we are now in Fall. I missed 12 days in August when I had back surgery #12, and reportedly, we had 7 hot days during that time. That means if I were to go back and count the number of hot summer days we have had here at Cerro Prieto this yr, we still would not have had one entire month of our standard Paso hot days/ cold nites.

Maybe I am getting the wrong impression, but during a drive down Vine Street in Paso today, I saw a magnificent Chinese Pistache tree...in 85% full orange plume. Oregon Plum trees(ornamental) and Chinese Pistache tend to go off together, the former in red and the latter in orange...but never on Sept 7th. It usually is much later in October that these two harbingers of Fall go thru their magnificent color change. Another piece to the weather puzzle is that all our poison oak is either in full red or has already lost all its leaves...something that happens usually late, late in Fall. So there are signs out there...ominous ones, that portend an early Fall, and more importantly, an early frost. For us that would mean Pinot Noir and Sauv Blanc, but we have harvested Pinot on Sept 15 every yr since 2001. Two weeks ago, we roared thru a very late veraison in Pinot, and the very next week our grapes had seeds starting to get brown and crispy. In a usual yr, that all happens slowly, methodically, over time. This yr is just like a jailbreak with veraison being 3-4 weeks behind, and then rapidly catching up. Grapes are already sweet, but not yet ready for Brixing. Probably most are at 20 to 21 Brix.

So, during my 33 yrs here in Paso, I have never seen the likes of this, nor has the East Coast seen the likes of their heat wave. No matter where you look, everyone, everywhere has different weather than they have had in yrs. Meanwhile, we here at Cerro Prieto watch, wait...and yes, do worry about what the next 3-4 weeks will bring. With our crop load pruned to 2.5 T/acre (or less in some blocs), if anyone ripens here, we should. But as everyone knows, "would have" and "should have" are not too very far apart, but yield vastly different outcomes for grapes. Our higher blocs are pretty much immune, but the cold of the inland valleys is a concern. Right now, I am looking at Sept 15 again for our Pinot, but it could drag on a week longer. With flavor already in the tiny beries, I like our chances for some outstanding Pinot. Sauv Blanc will be the suprise, in that this is our first harvest, altho it will be no more than half ton/acre.

I tried valiantly to get our '08 Pinot, Cab, Merlot and Syrah in bottle before surgery, but failed...so it probably won't get bottled until sometime past harvest. That's a shame, because I am really excited about all those wines, especially the Syrah, about which one well known winemaking consultant said, "Wow, that's a big wine." No kidding, Dick Tracy. Even tho our '07s are probably going to be better than our '06  International Gold medal and 92 point wines, it looks like our '08s are going to be better yet.  Man, talk about excited...well, yes, actually, I am. We really need to get those '08s into bottles so they can lay down for six months. They are ready to drink right now, which is great news for all our wine club members, as well as friends and family. For 2010 we are holding our breath...but I sense something great on those vines. Nature just has to let it ripen a bit more first. My guess? It will.

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