We’re in the home stretch now, and it will be a race to ripen the grapes before cool and wet weather ensues. We had a little more heat than expected last week, followed by another nice blast of autumn, and only moderate heat is forecast in the coming week. We would be surprised if it suddenly got warm now; the pattern of an overall cool year seems likely to continue. Fortunately, our location above the fog but at the lower end of the altitude range (~1500′) for our viticultural area should put us in an enviable position for ripening our fruit in what has been reported to be a challenging year for grape growing in coastal areas of the state.
Grape chemistry readings, which we started last week for our earliest ripening varieties, give us a pretty good idea of where we stand on harvest. We were a bit surprised by the acid levels last week in the primitivo, but they’ve come down nicely this week, brix are rising, and pH confirms the ripening trend. We think that we’re still 2-3 weeks out for the primitivo, depending on where specific clients like their fruit. Our nets on about 40% of this crop have birds concentrating their grazing in the un-netted rows, which not coincidentally is where we have been sending our golden retriever for entertainment.
For barbera, we focused our sampling on our earliest ripening and lowest yielding block to get a fix on where the barbera stands. Brix in the barbera are farthest along of any of our varietals, the pH is above 3 (we’ll take it–often our first reading of the year for barbera is not!), and TA is still characteristically high. On the basis of brix alone this block will be in a range that some like within 2 weeks, but the TA will likely require another 3 weeks to get in a reasonable range. Other blocks would be slightly behind and are looking like mid-October harvests.
The tempranillo made somewhat disappointing progress on brix this week, but showed evidence of ripening in the drop in TA and rise in pH. This is a characteristically low acid grape, and in port-style blends brings tannin rather than acid to the table. It looks like we’ve still got a couple weeks to go on the tempranillo, and as we’ve been very successful keeping the birds off it, may be able to hang it for three weeks if needed for the brix.
The touriga nacional, whose juice already has particularly nice flavors, is looking like its normal well-balanced self at this point, with probably 3-4 weeks to go. We’ve cropped this mainstay grape of the “Quinta” at low levels, and we’re very optimistic on the quality of this fruit.