Pinot Noir First Pick 8/4/15 Chardonnay Night Pick 8/17/15
Dateline: September 21, 2015
Post Harvest Report - Earliest Harvest In Our 44 Year History
If you thought you missed my pre-harvest newsletter you didn’t as vintage 2015 harvest sprung upon us very quickly due to the persistent dry weather and drought we have been experiencing this year. I knew we were in for some craziness this year as harvest actually started in late July, the earliest in history, in both Napa & Sonoma counties with the champagne grapes. I was hiking in the Sierras 8/2-8/8 when conditions dictated time to pick the Pinot Noir. We started picking contracted Pinot on 8/4 over 3 weeks early from normal. In anticipation of this early pick, instructions were given to both capable vineyard manager & cellar master on procedure for our estate wine should picking be necessary during my absence. Upon my return I found our estate Pinot had been picked 8/5, crushed, inoculated, fortified with nutrients and was happily on a downward ferment at 10 Brix. Lucky me (albeit guilty) to play hookie on the first pick but taking over from there and I had the Pinot in the barrel by 8/18 dry with wonderful color and flavor. After some early August high temperatures the weather turned cooler in mid August but stayed dry. Picking slowed a little only to be pushed fast forward by 4 days of triple digit heat in early September and by 9/18 we had completed harvest on both vineyards whereas in years past we haven’t finished until mid to late October. In a blink of an eye the 2015 harvest was over and we were happy to be finished.
Our 44th harvest is behind us and it was stressful and hectic at times but overall we did well by comparison to other growers that were reporting heavy losses due to shrivel, shatter and uneven ripeness. Tonnage for the County is estimated to be down 25-30%. The quality of our fruit was excellent and our pickers who had worked other vineyards stated we had the best grapes they had picked this year. Our vineyards look good all year and one would not suspect we were in a critical drought situation. I attribute this to our locations, the heavy composting of grape pomace we spread in the winter months along with our vineyard management and timely irrigation throughout the summer. We lightly irrigated throughout harvest to minimize dehydration without compromising fruit flavors, picked Chardonnay at night under lights, shipped 15 tons in bins by refrigerated trucks to customers 2500 miles away, picked for as many as 3 different wineries in one day starting at 6 am and finishing at 8pm, imported pickers from varied sources arriving at different times which meant keeping separate records for each group , and buying lunch for those pickers without food to keep them going. We had a constant effort to get the green light to pick our contracted fruit as some wineries just couldn’t adjust to the fact of picking this early despite the numbers we were getting on sugar/acids and ph. We have had easier harvests but at the end of the day there is a great deal of satisfaction to meet the challenge of a difficult harvest and feel a sense of accomplishment. .
Of concern to us now is the persistent drought that has plagued California for 4 years. Reservoirs and stream flows are low, there is no snow at 13000ft. on the Sierra crest, water tables have dropped, and many wells have gone dry in the central valley. There are a few vines throughout the vineyard that had previously contracted Pierces Disease. They were severely affected by the drought, in decline and will need to be replanted. There is a prediction for a strong El Nino winter that could mean heavy rain but there are some that say this is not a guarantee. If we do indeed receive heavy rain this winter, it will take time to replenish the underground aquifers that have been drawn upon. We must wait for Mother Nature to be kind and continue to be conservative with water usage both at home and in industry.
Cabernet Franc Last Day Pick 9/18/15
Vintage 2015 Estate Wines Report
In spite of the early harvest, quality of our fruit was extremely high. The parameters of good chemistry relating to sugar, acids and ph were obtained in very favorable range and flavors and color were excellent. Ferments progressed well in normal fashion and all went dry without sluggishness. Chardonnay and Rosato were both produced again this year in limited quantity and I look forward to our estate 2015 wines being delicious to drink across the board upon their release.
There is an indication, as reported by wine industry media, of alcohol levels now being directed towards a lower range. The high alcohol (15-16%+) fruit forward table wines made in the past can exhibit unbalance with flabbiness, heat on the finish, high residual sugar and a sense of tiredness. At 13-14.5% alcohol a better sugar/acid ratio prevails to give a flavorful fruity, bright and well balanced wine. Europeans have always known this, however the New World has pushed alcohol to higher levels beyond normal standards for a dry table wine. These high alcohol wines might taste good standing alone due to heavy fruit and residual sugar but when paired with food they can dominate rather than compliment the meal. What do you want in your glass…..a kick in the pants or a food friendly wine that enhances the flavors of the meal???
We still have good inventory on our 2011 Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignion and BeauSierra Bordeaux Red. These wines have won numerous high awards, well aged in both oak and bottle and now 4 years old. No need to lay these away as they are drinking superbly and will make your upcoming Holiday meals a special occasion. We released our 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel in August and it is rich in fruit with great depth and finish and absolutely delicious.
We hope you might visit the winery Fri-SU from 11-4:30 pm or M-TH by appointment to stock up on wines for the Holidays. Sometimes you will find specials available in the Tasting Room for both Club Members and Non Club customers that are not listed in our website shopping cart.
Best Regards to all from Forchini Vineyards & Winery.