Monday, May 30, 2016

Cerro Prieto and the Long Spring.

Figures...last 4 years we had virtually 12 months of summer, with a slight cooling spell,  usually for a week or so before Christmas. The remainder of the was just mild, delightful, and not the ideal conditions for grape growing. No question summers were good and hot, but it cooled off nicely at nites.  Enter Spring 2016: a beautiful, cool, crisp, spring, beginning in early Feb to even a bit of late Jan. Then the traditional springs here began. Cold, sometimes really cold at nites, and very pleasant during the daytime. Then March hit and we got the big splits, freezing in valley vineyard and 60s-70s in daytime. The usual time for bud break, late Feb to early March went off without a hitch in the high reaches of the Syrah. But down in the valley vineyard, it remained in the high 20s most mornings. As usual, that coldness warmed right up after sunrise, so no damage to low valley vines. But the winter dormancy continued and kept the Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot well behind where they should have been. Below are examples of Pinot and Syrah, just 5 -6 weeks ago.

Here is Syrah, already 12"-18" on average.

And here, skimpy and puny is the Pinot on the same day. Granted, it was 27 degrees at 4:30 a.m. and this was representative of most of the valley vineyard. Typically, the mountain vineyard is ahead, but this was ridiculous.

Fast forward to today, and we have canes on Syrah reaching 7' and Pinot is maxed out at it's typical 36". The Syrah has already bloomed and had fruit set now, and the Pinot is still thinking about it. The few warmer spots in Pinot have a few blooms, but are substantially behind the Syrah. The Merlot vineyard, not mountain top, and not valley vineyard, has yet to even remotely consider blooming. There is a very nice set of buds in the Merlot, but no blooms as of yet. This is just another demonstration of the multiple microclimates we have here, and some, like one of the Cab blocs, has three definable microclimates in one bloc. Significance? Well, only that if you are planning on harvesting all of bloc 5 at once, fuggedaboudit. It won't happen, and usually means we harvest it 3 times: once the top, once the mid, and once the bottom third. And yes, that is a real pain. Yet if you want all the grapes you harvest to be ripened thru and thru, this is what you do. During the drought, however, we usually harvested bloc 5 in just two segments.

Grape set? Nope, these are Merlot flower buds which will open, with dainty yellow flowers and with luck get pollinated, and then set tiny little grapes, just about the size of the flower buds above.  This is exactly what the Merlot buds look like at present, putting them dead last in going into bloom. Somehow, they manage to "catch up" with the Cab, Syrah over the course of the summer, but will follow the Pinot harvest by about 2 weeks.

Brian Heath of Heath Vineyards who bought 15 of our 20 acres of vines, is currently planting the bloc we never got around to planting, one which faces due SW. Interestingly, there is no place you can stand to see the top of the bloc from the bottom. Likewise, there is no place you can stand to see the bottom of the bloc from the top. Sure you can see the valley below, but not the bottom of the bloc. It is steeply terraced, and has some areas that are 45 degrees of inclination...and some greater. Un-terraced, this bloc would not have been able to be planted. I am delighted to see the vines go in, as I always wondered if this limestone face was not the one best bloc we have. It is just adjacent to our current Syrah bloc, and is destined for greatness. Brian is planting Petit Verdot and a bit more Syrah. Both will go is a blue eyed witch to put in however. Tough, really tough.

Follow up on several wines:

The 2012 Paso Bordo was still not ready 3 months ago, and a local friend had some this weekend and said, "Still not ready". It is behaving much like our 2006 Paso Bordo, which truly took all 48 months to return to barrel quality. That is the way this started, and I have a feeling we are looking at Jan 2017 til it gets back to where it started. It's drinkable, but nowhere near where it should be. So be patient, and continue to leave it on its side. The 2013 Merlot, which was my favorite ever in barrel, has turned out to be a terrific wine. It has not yet, but soon will surpass all our other is that good. And yes, you can definitely drink it now. Same goes for the 2013 Syrah. Drink anytime from now on.

That's it for now, and could have included several vineyard pics where the vines tower, some 7' in length already. 25" of rain can go a long way in the vineyard. This is the best the vineyard has looked since the wet years of 2010 and 2011, when we had 52" and 54". We right now are seeing what normal 24" rainfall does to the vines...and right now, vineyard is outrageously beautiful.

Oh, my apology for not getting back to the many who have written to ask if we have any wines left to buy. Answer is yes, a few. I have 4 cases of 2012 Paso Bordo and 4 cases of Merlot I will still sell. But those are the last. Now if you write and request some, I can answer you...before I was uncertain exactly what we had between winery and warehouse.

The drought is over and we are celebrating. Finally...and by the grace of God. It was getting dicey here, but rain has fixed all that.


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