A polar opposite to last year, Mother Nature is cooperating in 2016. The mornings are much more usual being cool and covering most of Sta. Rita Hills in morning fog. The mid-days are mild with temperatures in the mid 70s for the most part and the late afternoons cooled by ocean breezes. There have been several peaks into the high 80s to low 90s but none of the 100 plus temperature spikes that were quite common in 2015. There is no rain in site, which should play no role whatsoever in the harvesting decisions.
Long, mild days have produced well-balanced ripened grapes. The acidity is normally respirated or lost when the temperature get too high; this is done to help cool the grapes. But this year that has not been a problem and the acidity is well balanced with the continuous and steady increase in sugar. Sugar is important for measuring the ripeness but also directly equates to the amount of alcohol that will be in the final wine product.
First to come off this year was the Pinot Grigio from Runway Vineyard on August 1st. This is always earliest as it is in the Santa Maria AVA (American Viticultural Area) and tends to ripen early. Next we took Pinot Noir from the roadside portion of Rio Vista Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills. Acidity was the name of the game for this harvest as these Pinot Noir Clone 667 grapes are destined to become the 2016 Rosé of Pinot. The focus of this wine is minerality, floral notes and light red fruit qualities to provide balance to food and a fine tasting Rosé.
Several weeks later in mid September, the Rio Vista Vineyard from the Hillside Pinot Noir Clone 667 and the lower bluff, Clone 777 were picked to make Pinot Noir red wine. Any day now we will finish with Rio Vista by harvesting the Clone 115 that is tucked away in a small, shady little plot up the road from the main vineyard. Around this time, the Rancho La Viña vineyard Pinot Noir should be nearing ripeness. This vineyard is up on a Hillside and overlooks the entire valley and Santa Rosa Road that splits the sides in half. Pinot Noir in 2016 will be very age-worthy with amazing balance, beautiful perfume noses, minerality and fruit concentration.
Next will be our whites: Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The Chardonnay is in Los Alamos Vineyard in Block 20 or Flower & Stag Block. It is in a 1.74 acre separated parcel that is isolated from the rest of the large vineyard. It has its own microclimate and sandy soil; stay tuned for a complete and detailed write up of this vineyard. Many fantastic and famous Chardonnays come from this site. The Sauvignon Blanc is back by popular demand. Many club members have been asking me to make Sauvignon Blanc again but it took me awhile to finally find a vineyard I liked: Two Wolves. This is abutting the Happy Canyon AVA and is the hottest of the microclimates for our wines. Sloping, steep hillside Clone 1 Sauvignon Blanc is just beautiful here and I cannot wait to make wine from this site. Look for Chardonnays with apple and pear flavors aged in oak for creaminess. The Sauvignon Blancs will be lean, with tons of minerality dominated by lots of passion fruit and guava.
After the whites are done will come Harrison-Clarke Vineyard. The upper bluff, soil-starved, stress Estrella Clone Syrah and the flat. lower expanse Alban Clone Syrah will be harvested. Both of these appear to have the perfect balance of acidity, sugar and flavor. It should be an amazing year for these Rhône varietals. I am expected intense blackberry, pepper and cola.
As the season progresses we will Harvest: Cabernet, Malbec and Merlot from Happy Canyon Vineyard, McGinley Vineyard and Tommy Town Vineyard all from the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA. At about the same time the Cabernet and Merlot from Estelle Vineyard should be ready which is located in the newest AVA: Los Olivos District. Late to the party will be the Cabernet Franc (Sanger Vineyard), Petite Sirah (Sanger Vineyard), Sangiovese (Estelle Vineyard) and Tempranillo (Tierra Alta Vineyard). To finish the season will be the Petit Verdot (McGinley Vineyard) and the grand finale the Grenache from Flower & Vine Vineyard (aka Alisos Vineyard).
I will be updating more on the Harvest as it progresses.