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Autumn 2017

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FROM THE VINEYARD

September 2017

Harvest kicked off at our Anderson Valley Estate at the end of August and was completed by September 18th (save for the late harvest Chardonnay which will be picked in the next few weeks). Cool nights in early summer, heatwaves (especially the one over labor day weekend), and hillside vineyards all played a part in making the 2017 harvest unique. We caught up with our director of agriculture and our Anderson Valley winemaker to get a peek into how this vintage is going.

We harvest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at night because it’s cooler and the grape quality is better when they’re cool and crisp.

Winemaking starts with farming. How do our farming practices set up up for success?
Joseph Hardin, director of agriculture (JH): Our organic, sustainable, integrated farming system relies on each part of the ranch to contribute to the health of the whole. Timing also plays a large role in harvesting the highest quality fruit. 

When the heat wave came through Anderson Valley in the middle of August, how did that affect our fruit?
Stéphane Vivier, Anderson Valley winemaker (SV): Through the heatwave, the vineyards held up very well; our fruit looked really good. We knew the pick date was going to change, we just had to watch and check often to determine by how much. The biggest impact was that we had to speed up picking from a two to three-week stretch to picking everything within ten days. That was intense!

JH: Basically, we’re dancing with mother nature and she’s always in the lead.

How will this translate to wine?

SV: From the extremely cold spring and early summer nights (temps dropping to 40 degrees) to the heat waves at the end of summer, the weather this year led us to a longer bloom time and smaller clusters and berries which resulted in a lower yield with fantastic quality of fruit. The wines will be a little more powerful this year but with the same vibrancy and freshness as prior vintages.

So once you’ve determined the fruit is ripe and ready for picking, how do you decide where to start?

JH: We pick on a lot by lot basis and keep each lot separate throughout crush and fermentation until blending takes place. We want to make sure the juice is good before we blend certain blocks together because you can’t ever un-blend.

Can you tell us a little bit about where we are in the winemaking process for a few of our Anderson Valley wines?

SV: Sure, we harvested our Chardonnay the first week of September. After spending 3-6 days in stainless steel tanks for primary fermentation, we moved it to 25% new French oak barrels for secondary fermentation where it will stay for 12-18 months. We harvested the Pinot Noir during the first week of September. It is finishing right now in tanks and heading to secondary fermentation in 25% new French oak to age for 12-18 months.
The Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir Blanc was also harvested during the first week of September. The Pinot Gris had 6 days fermentation in stainless steel tanks and is now finishing fermentation in oak (no new oak) for 7 months. The Pinot Noir Blanc had started fermentation in stainless steel and is currently aging for 7 months in 5% new oak.

What are your overall feelings about this vintage?

SV: The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are showing great freshness compared to 2016. The Chardonnay is showing a lot of floral character and elegance. It will be accessible and balanced at an earlier age compared to the last two vintages which needed more time in the bottle. The 2017 vintage will be more old world/old school wine, which is really great. The wines are going to be mind-boggling!

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