Harvest 2017 Kicks Off!

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Harvest 2017 kicked off the final week of August.  We started with the perfect Viognier in the picture above.  This Willow Creek District Viognier has been the foundation for our white wine program since 2014.  We pressed and barreled into neutral French oak immediately after receiving the fruit.  The fermentation started native, using the wild yeast on the grapes themselves, and then we inoculated with a commercial yeast to finish up.  The wine finished yesterday and looks, smells, and tastes great.  We'll consolidate the barrels and tuck them away to allow the lees (yeast cells) to settle. 

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Shortly after the Vio we harvested Malbec from a small family vineyard in Paso Robles.  Just like last year I took Reagan with me to pick. The vineyard is relatively new and this is the first real crop at 1.3 tons.  The fruit was ripe with incredible flavors.  We sorted, destemmed, and consolidated the must into a 1-ton fermenter.  It stayed there for a few days cold soaking before starting a native fermentation just like the Viognier.  After 36 hours we inoculated with my favorite Malbec yeast and away she went.  The fermentation is almost complete and has yielded one of the darkest wines we've ever made.  Even better the wine smells like chocolate covered blueberries and has more flavors than I can even identify!

The weather is really cool now with highs only in the 70s so we don't expect any other grapes for a few weeks. 

2016 Harvest Recap

First week of December and all of the 2016 wines are finally tucked away in barrel.  It was a long harvest, starting in August with the final press loads in late November.  Overall, I consider it a great year.  The yields from some grapes were less than normal but the quality is unreal.

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We started early with whites that are destined for the 2016 CAVU, white Rhone blend. First grapes of the season were Viognier from the Caliza Vineyard, just up the road.  Beautifully ripe at 26.5 Brix but holding great acid; together a killer combination.  We whole cluster pressed and then barrel fermented over the course of just over a month.  With the Viognier we also tried a controlled non-Saccharomyces yeast as a starter, the Laffort Alpha.  Time will tell the results but looking good so far.

Next came the Grenache Blanc shown in the image above.  Great acidity and varietal flavor highlighted these grapes.  We whole cluster pressed and barrel fermented in just under three weeks.  I am very happy with the result.

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Reds started with Cabernet Sauvignon.  We were fortunate to meet a small, family grower and took every grape from his vineyard.  The vineyard is beautifully manicured and the fruit was perfect.  When we sent the 2000 lbs of grapes across the sorting table we removed only about a dozen clusters!  This wine is also special as I took my two oldest daughters into the field to help with picking the fruit.  Great fermentation and she is tucked away in two year old French barrels.

After the cab, we finished whites with some Templeton Gap district Roussanne.  Ripe but with good acidity, we pressed then fermented in barrel.  This year I only took a half ton of this so ended up with one tasty barrel. This will blend with the Viognier and Grenache Blanc for the CAVU.

As we moved into late September everything picked up quickly.  We brought in a couple tons of Syrah from the El Pomar district and were blown away by the color and flavor.  Super dark fruit flavors and an inky deep purple color.  The wine is now in new Vallaurine French oak and should stay there for about 24 months until ready for blending into the Fox-3.

In quick succession, we had Petit Verdot and Tannat.  Beautiful fruit and tremendous depth of flavor.  With both of these grapes we found a much lower yield of less than 100 gallons a ton!  Fortunately, the resultant wines are so concentrated they are almost black with aromas and flavors that jump out of the glass.  Both of these wines were basket pressed and found homes in new French oak barrels from Seguin Moreau and Mercier.  

For all of the Volatus reds this year, we used a long cold soak process.  This involves dry ice to cool the sorted and destemmed fruit to about 40-45 deg; the initial cooling is shown above. We tuck the bin away and let the must soak for five days or more. This allows great extraction before we even start the primary fermentation. 

Harvest continued with more Tannat!  In fact, we made more Tannat this year than any other varietal.  We found a couple of vineyards that grow the most amazing fruit and yield tremendous wines.  I started with Tannat in 2015 and now am totally hooked.  The wine is so incredibly dark and intense but not overly tannic.  I am looking forward to how this batch of Tannat matures over the next two years as it rests in new French oak barrels from Mercier and Seguin Moreau.

Each of our reds was pressed in a small basket press this year.  An example is shown in the video below; wine, skins, seeds, and more go in and beautiful juice comes out!

Mother Nature threw in some drama in October this year with not one but two large rains.  We had one more batch of grapes still to bring in and I was a little worried.  Fortunately, the grower worked his magic in the vineyard and we harvested beautiful Grenache near the end of October, the day after a big rain.  The flavors were there and the numbers were great with sugars just over 26.5 Brix.  The Grenache fermented well and is resting in new Vallaurine French oak barrels. 

Overall, a great year and I think y'all will love the wines; the CAVU white next year and the reds sometime in 2018!

One final video showing the family getting in on the sorting action.  They love to try and help whenever possible.  Watch for my youngest daughter performing some quality control on the grapes!