Friday, October 15, 2010

Paso's Westside harvest at Cerro Prieto ...almost done

Two weeks ago it was the Savor event, the million dollar plus event sponsored by Sunset magazine. This week that is only a faded memory. What lingers are the mouth watering taste of our Pinot Noir and Sauv Blanc two weeks ago, and our Cab, Merlot and Syrah which came off this week. Tuesday, our first pick of Bordeaux/ Rhone grapes, was a corker. At 5:30 a.m. we had 23 guys (and ladies) here to pick a probable 16 tons of Cab. By 6:15 a.m. we were down to 16 pickers, and by 6:30 we were down to 9. Only later did I find out that two 7 man crews had been asked to help harvest by another labor contractor, and there either was a dispute over some back pay...not paid...or there was disagreement over whether they picked by the ton or by the hour. In any event, we had gone from being well to over-prepared, to being a lot of pickers short.

In a panic I called on our housekeeper, Alicia, who dropped what she was doing and immediately came over with her son, mother, and sister in law, all of whom Alicia had told to drop everything and come help us. With one friend like that, a person is truly blessed. Ten minutes after the call, Alicia et al arrived, and a bit later two other friends showed up. With the foreman and me we had 16 pickers, which turned out just great...11 hours later. While picking I treated one lady for heat stroke...picked a shady spot, monitored her vital signs, and poured the Gatorade until she could drink no more. Undeterred, she was up 30 minutes later, picking away. Several other mishaps included our bothering the hornets while cutting off clusters, with three folks getting stung, which some hi- potency cortisone cream, ice, rest, and shade took care of. Wildhorse, the winery we were picking for, was incredibly kind and allowed us to bring grapes in 2 hours later than we had expected.

The next day while checking to see how our Cab was doing( Brix, pH, TA), they gave me some 2008 Wildhorse Unbridled Cabernet Sauvignon...Cerro Prieto Vineyard designated. They had discussed doing a vineyard designation, but until Tuesday, I didn't know for sure. It is phenomenal, and if you get a chance to buy a bottle at the winery in Templeton, do so. You won't regret it. Our lab numbers came out fine, and for one day everything went well. Picking days are big days for vineyards, as well as wineries, and the delicate dance of organizing when which grapes come in for processing is ticklish indeed.

Following day we picked for Justin's Isosceles program, and that was essentially a smooth harvest. Next came our Syrah, and yesterday 6 people picked 2 acres of grapes in a baking oven and only one row at a time. Why? Because the Syrah was planted into a steep limestone mountainside with terraced rows 10-15 feet apart, due to the odd contour of the virtually vertical mountain. Normally pickers pick 2 rows on each side of the tractor pulling the grape bins. To have done so here would have meant handing up 40 lb bins 10 feet or more, or lowering down 10 feet. Either way was unmanageable, so all pickers lined up behind the tractor. As for the baking heat, the mountain is entirely composed of limestone, and the sun's reflection off mountainsides above and below, gives a baking effect when the temperature was 101 degrees to begin with. Two acres was truly as much as anyone wanted to pick.

And the Syrah? Magnificent. Truly magnificent. Purple black tapered clusters had been ripe since Oct 1st, but we had been waiting for the flavors to come in, which they spades. This will be our finest Syrah ever, and we have produced some spectacular Syrah before. This one takes the cake, with prominent plum, but also tones of blueberry, blackberry, and for the first time ever, strawberry. While waiting and tasting the past two weeks, the strawberry flavor had never been present, but it sure was on Thursday. To say we picked on exactly the right day would be an understatement. It was perfect. Perfect terroir, loving care and attention, and the perfect day for flavors. This will be a memorable year for Cerro Prieto's grapes, and same for our wines.

Yes, we had the cold summer, preceded by the wet winter, but because of our exacting pruning, our low yields, 2.5T/acre, resulted in some absolutely fantabulous fruit. It is now in ferment tanks doing... well... fermenting. The winery aromas are exactly what we had noted while picking and tasting fruit...all the flavors noted above, plus a tad of blackberry. RULE: if you can taste the flavor in the fruit you will taste it in the wine...spectacularly so. Contrary is also true if you are pruned to high yields, ie, high yields dilute out many flavors and bouquet and taste are vastly decreased. This is why our vineyard continues to crank out world class fruit for world class wines. Still have 3 acres to go, 1 of Merlot and 2 of Cab. Cold, billowing fog just moved in and I wonder if the folks buying those wines may have missed...or are about to miss the flavor picking window. I would have taken those grapes on Thursday, but each winery we sell to calls their own harvest dates, based on lab values and especially flavor. Time will tell who was correct.

For our wines, harvest is now over, and everything is either in barrel, bin, or tank. The Pinot will be outstanding, the Sauv Blanc is exactly the way I wanted it, and the Syrah will be world class. That for me is one heckuva harvest, especially when 3 weeks ago, everyone was wondering if fruit would even get ripe...let alone acquire flavors. So altho we can put a cap on our wines, 3 acres of our grapes still need to be picked. For the two wineries involved, I sure hope they guessed right and will get some more flavors with more time hanging. Problem is fog off back deck is impenetrable. And cold is in the forecast. For Cerro Prieto Vineyard and Cellars, harvest is over. Our 2010 vintages will all be spectacular, and I am already tasting fermenting bins, with flavors that are truly indescribable. You should have been here.

This was the Paso Robles Westside red grape harvest at its very best. These wines will stand right up there with our other International gold medal and 92 point wines. It was a good harvest. It was a crazy season. But it was another fantastic year for Cerro Prieto wines. Stop by our tasting room in downtown Paso Robles, across from the park, at the Meritage Tasting Room...and give them a try.

No comments:

Post a Comment