We have a policy of posting the data we get, not the data we want to get. And actually, even the data we got is not so bad. The forecast for this week just got worse and worse in terms of heat and dryness, such that it became our fourth multi-day incursion into the 100’s of the season, and the second in as many weeks. While the barbera fared beautifully, continuing their gentle climb toward ripeness, we definitely experienced some dehydration, as judged by a spike in sugars, in the primitivo. The good news, however, is that ripeness as judged by sugar/acid ratio distinctly improved, such that the grapes are now pretty much text book for harvest. The juice in our weekly sample was a deep red color, also clearly signalling that “it’s time”. Moreover, as the dehydration, which is also evident in an increased incidence of shrivel, is quite recent, we expect that the grapes harvested this weekend will have ripe fruit flavors without the raisiny notes that would eventually follow. The primitivo, in short, is ready.
The barbera looks to be about 2 weeks out, and the cooling weather ahead should give it a fighting chance to come in for a soft landing…we remain optimistic.
Steady as she goes! This week’s sunny but cooler weather, coupled with ample watering, have allowed the grapes to make steady progress toward ripeness without a spike in sugars. We are beginning to see shrivel in some bunches in both vineyards, but this remains the exception rather than the rule, and some of those bunches were included in this week’s sample. It looks to us like this weekend would be too early for the primitivo for most of our clients’ preferences, but next weekend looks promising. The barbera remain on track for early-mid September. We plan to take the next reading next Thursday or Friday.
Today’s chemistry readings help validate those from 4 days ago, and present a picture of rapidly ripening fruit. We have just endured the third intense heatwave of the growing season, and have been dealt a wonderful card of a coming string of days in the mid- to upper 80’s and even a little “humidity”…40%+! Our plants have never looked so good at this point in the season, so we are optimistic that we can use this respite from hot, dry weather to try to get ahead of the curve on watering and achieve ripe fruit with minimal dehydration. We plan to continue watering the vineyard (in blocks by necessity) around the clock until at least the primitivo is in, and likely beyond.
In terms of harvest predictions, we are feeling very confident in recommending that our primitivo clients consider taking their fruit in the next 2 weeks, depending on the level of ripeness that they are looking for. We see the optimal window for a dry wine likely to end by Labor Day. The acids are a little high right now, but they have already begun their typical precipitous fall. The juice in our chemistry samples is significantly red-tinted, also suggesting that we are close. We expect to sample again for chemistry on the 22nd or 23rd, and harvest for some by next weekend would not be out of the question.
There is clearly more time for the barbera, as usual, and early- to mid-September continues to look highly probable. We will continue to water these vines as aggressively as possible to try to win the annual battle against dehydration.
We are nearly on cruise-control heading into harvest season. A long string of classic warm days/cool nights is finally giving way to a stretch of more intense heat, which is expected for a few more days and which we are combatting with watering. Seconds were dropped from our clone 02 barbera plants, which were particularly loaded with them this year, and some limited first crop fruit has followed on a plant-by-plant basis…perhaps 10% overall. The primitivo formed relatively few seconds, and those have been dropped, along with a limited amount of main crop fruit (based on balance within a given plant), from Block 6 and part of Block 7. This operation will be completed in the primitivo this coming weekend, with the main goal less to thin the crop, which is already on the light side, as to better synchronize the ripening of what’s there. Our philosophy is that any bunches showing green at this point “ain’t gonna make it” for the commercial harvest, as the vast majority of the primitivo crop is a solid blue/purple in color.
We have netted an unprecedented fraction of our main vineyard–about 20%, focusing on areas immediately adjacent to trees that traditionally get ravaged. While there has been some bird damage in the primitivo, so far we appear to be holding our own against the birds, with the help of the nets and bird distress call boxes.
The first chemistry readings of the season were just posted. We are a little rusty on our sampling routine after not doing this for 11 months, but the readings seem plausible based on taste, appearance, and our historical data. While the sugars are not off the charts yet, they are getting up there relative to the acid, and we repeat our prediction that this will NOT be a late season. In fact, based on the data, we are moving up our estimates of harvest slightly to late August-early September for primitivo, and to early September-mid-September for barbera. This will all become clear exactly when it always becomes clear…when it’s nearly on top of us!