The vintage 2012 has the potential to be one of the finest vintages in many years, if not one of the best ever on the west coast. There is a true potential to create something special.
In the Napa Valley we have already harvested some amazing fruit at Cornerstone Cellars. Our new Stepping Stone Pinot Gris, picked on September 11th, has just started it's long cold fermentation and the juice could not be more exciting. Packed with fresh peach and melon flavors and explosive acidity the wine is sure to be exceptional. This new vineyard, located directly in front of Silver Oak, is an A+ quality site and will produce a very complex pinot gris. A few days later, September 13th, we picked our sauvignon blanc. To the excellent Talcott Vineyard in St. Helena, this year we have added a new sauvignon blanc vineyard, Ink Grade on Howell Mountain, the same site where we harvest our Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. We are co-fermenting these sites and fermentation is progressing slowly and perfectly. We ferment our whites at very low temperature to maintain all the aromatics so fermentation can take months, instead of weeks as in the red wine. The juice now is packed with mineral-ly, grapefruit flavors and aromas. It's delicious.
The red wine harvest started last Monday and Thursday, with merlot from Oakville Station/To Kalon and Ink Grade Howell Mountain. Merlot is the earliest ripener of the Bordeaux varieties. To say that this first fruit has lived up to our high expectations of this vintage is an understatement. The color is rich and dark and the juice is full of the velvety plum flavors that define great merlot. These tanks are now all yeasted after a cold soak of several days and fermentation is just starting to really roll.
With temperatures spiking into the 90s this weekend we could not have hoped for better weather to push the cabernet sauvignon to perfect ripeness. Over the next several weeks things will go into overdrive as we rush to bring in this perfect fruit before the rains and birds arrive.
- Upcoming scheduled picks:
- 10/1 - Oakville Station/To Kalon Cabernet Franc and Block 2 Merlot
- 10/3 - Ink Grade Cabernet Sauvignon, lower block 5
- 10/4 - Ink Grade Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and Stewart Ranch Carneros Merlot
- 10/5 - Losey Vineyard Riesling and Atlas Peak Syrah
In Oregon the quality of the vintage looks equally sensational. Harvest should start in about two weeks, which should let me finish here before I have to head up there. While in Napa we have the staff at Laird to support us, in Oregon its totally hands on wine production with harvest meaning about three days of concentrated harvesting for Cornerstone Oregon. As the pinot noir and chardonnay must get into the fermenter as quickly as possible that means days that begin long before dawn and you finish only when that day's fruit is all processed - often long after dark. We have no scheduled pick dates in Oregon yet, but the upcoming week will give us a good idea when crush time will arrive.
Our biggest challenge after this heat spike may be that all the fruit will ripen at once, which will test our logistical systems (read Jeff and my backs) to be be sure we don't let any of this great fruit get even one more day on the vine than it should have. We want perfect fruit in such a perfect year. You can't waste such a gift.
Pictured above: The harvest crew takes a well deserved break just before sunrise during our pinot gris harvest.