Gloria Ferrer VP of Production Mike Crumly and Director of Winemaking Steven Urberg inspect a load of Sonoma Carneros Pinot Noir grapes as they arrive for the first crush of the 2017 harvest this morning.
Steven Urberg, Director of Winemaking
“As we reach the end of our sparkling bottling season we had been hoping for our harvest to begin around the middle of August which has been the normal start time for us (outside of the early harvests of the last few years). However, the recent warm weather pushed some of the vineyard blocks carrying a lighter crop to ripen more quickly and we found ourselves beginning the 2017 harvest this morning –more than a week earlier that we were planning on! But, our entire team is excited. We love this time of year.
The first grapes that arrived this morning were Pinot Noir from Sonoma Carneros that will go into our sparkling wines. Tomorrow we will bring in a few small blocks from our Home Ranch on our 335-acre Carneros estate, and by the end of next week we will be in the thick of the sparkling harvest.
Some of the earliest vineyard blocks that we will be picking tomorrow contribute our favorite grapes for producing our Brut Rosé (vintage and non-vintage) wines. To make these special wines we will select a few blocks of Pinot Noir grapes and rather than pressing them out as whole clusters to isolate the white juice, we will crush the grapes and let the juice sit in contact with the broken skins for a few hours or up to a few days. During this time, the juice will extract a little bit of color and a lot of red fruit character. When they have extracted enough, we will press the grapes and the juice is fermented separately. This gives us a wine that is pink in color and big in red fruit flavor. This base wine is an important blending component of our Rosé wines, like the new Gloria Ferrer NV Brut Rosé we introduced nationwide just a couple of months ago. It contributes red fruit notes and the beautiful color.”
Mike Crumly, VP Production
“One of the defining features of this year’s growing season was the highest seasonal rainfall ever recorded on the North Coast. Rain that seemed relentless in the winter and spring followed several years of drought. When the vines woke up and pushed out the new spring growth, the roots remained inundated with water in the saturated soils. Roots starved for oxygen failed to grow for weeks; some roots below the water table didn’t survive.
This wet spring period caused the vines to stop growing while the root system regenerated. Short little shoots with stunted growth showed pale color, and everyone was very concerned. Warm dry weather eventually arrived. As the vines pulled the excess water from the soil, roots became healthy once again allowing shoot growth to take off. Vines grew many inches per day. Dark green healthy leaves replaced the small pale leaves of early spring.
“Slow spring growth gave us short internode lengths, but once soils dried out, we saw rapid growth and long internodes.” – Mike Crumly
Early summer has been warm. Vine canopies grew large and full. Irrigation was delayed until late in the season. It has been many years since we have seen such strong growth on healthy vines. We took our annual cluster counts to determine crop size and found counts to be below average on vines pruned to cordons, and average on cane-pruned vines. Clusters this year appear to be small and loose. We are anticipating yields to be below average this year.
As we approached harvest we had many days in a row over 90 degrees. This warm weather has accelerated ripening. Our earlier berry samples to determine harvest dates have shown both high sugar and high acid. This is typical on vines that are carrying light yields. In most cases, it will also predict concentrated high-quality juice. These climactic conditions caused us to move up our anticipated harvest date by about a week. The winery team is working hard to finish up bottling to clear tank space for the incoming juice. The vineyard crew has our vines in the perfect state of readiness.”