Friday, September 30, 2011

Here Comes the Rain!

Rain is always a threat in late harvest years. We always cross our fingers and hope it holds off until all the grapes are picked, but in farming the only certainty is that there can be no certainty with Mother Nature. And, of course, it now looks like we may get 1-2" of rain starting on Monday.

Lucky for us, our last pick for Foursight is Sunday!

Gary Bates, a family friend, and some Pinot destined for Foursight's first dry rose'

We'll be bringing in three tons of Sauvignon Blanc on Sunday morning, just ahead of the bad weather. My parents will still have some SB hanging for another winery, but that's due to a number of factors. They very smartly pulled some leaves on our rows, exposing the fruit to more sunlight and ripening the fruit more rapidly. This can be risky in years like last year, where many farmers pulled leaves and then we had a heat wave, causing sunburn and lots of raisined fruit. However, if you play it right, it can make the difference between being able to get the fruit off the vine ahead of the rain, or having to hang it through the rain.

Now, where rain's concerned, anything above an inch is worrisome. Mold increases, and if the rain doesn't let up, the grapes can simply turn to mush on the vines (more or less). Because of this chance, grape growers have been picking frantically all week. It's been hard to get a crew and even harder to get a truck to take the fruit to the winery. The local crews have been picking night and day (literally) -- we've heard our neighbors picking all night for the past four nights so they can ship the fruit to Napa first thing in the morning.

Here in Anderson Valley, virtually all the Pinot Noir is now off the vines, meaning that this should be a good harvest for Pinot Noir for the appellation. We'll see how the later-ripening whites and any bigger reds fare (very little planted in the big red department due to our cold climate). And, as for late-harvest wines, I wouldn't expect to see much (unless we end up getting just the perfect amount of rain to encourage some nice, botrytized wines).

As always, it's never dull!

In the winery, our fermentations are going like crazy. The native yeast has kicked off and we have to air out the winery first thing in the morning: the CO2 is so thick we can't work back there until we've replaced the air with the winery fan. We're on to two punch downs (and soon three) per day, and things are looking good and smell fantastic. The one thing I love the most about our tasting room being on the other side of the wall from the winery is that the tasting room smells like fermenting wine all day!

Our first-ever Pinot Noir rose' is almost done with fermentation. Super exciting, and we can't wait to try it as a finished wine. We're not giving it any oak aging, nor are we allowing it to go through malolactic fermentation. Our reasoning for this? We want it to be dry and crisp, with the kind of bright acidity that makes it refreshing and food friendly. We hope to release it in time for next summer's hot days. It's going to be our go-to picnic and patio wine.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Harvest Continues at Foursight

As of today we have everything in except one clone of Pinot Noir (the one that's always behind - 114) and the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. As it turns out, this isn't the latest harvest on record for Charles Vineyard. We picked four days earlier than last year, 2010. Surprising to us, but that's why we keep records!

We expect to be bringing in the final Pinot this coming week, and the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon in about a week to a week and a half. Of course, there is a slight chance of rain tonight or tomorrow. However, unless it's more than an inch, it won't be detrimental. It will just moderate the temperatures and cause ripening to slow down a bit. And increase the mold pressure of course.

We've been lucky enough to have a friend helping us out for harvest this vintage (go Erik!). Without help from our friends (Johnny, Jimmy, Gary, and I could go on) and family, we wouldn't be able to do everything that we do. Being grape growers AND winemakers adds a layer of complication -- picking for yourselves, plus everyone that you sell fruit to, and processing all your own fruit on top of it. Then, of course, we have the tasting room, wine club, Web site sales, events, and I could go on.

However, there is a method to all our madness. The reason why we staff our own tasting room, pour at our own events, grow our own grapes, and make our own wines, is that we believe it makes for a better end product and a better experience for our customers. If you know Foursight, you've met one of us -- the family. If you've enjoyed one of our wines, you've experienced exactly what our perspective on Pinot Noir is.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Harvest Arrives!

This Thursday and Friday we picked the first grapes at Charles Vineyard. Whereas in a typical year we start picking still wine in the beginning of September, we were just picking some rose' grapes and starting in on some still Pinot Noir this week. So we're running about two weeks later than usual right now.

How do the grapes look? We did get some sunburn with than 100+ degree day a few weeks ago, so those clusters were removed, shrinking the size of an already small crop. Skins are thin this year, making the grapes fragile and we definitely have to handle them with care. However, flavors are really good, and the acids are still holding strong, which we love. You need some structure and some acid to create that balanced, releasable-now-yet-ageable Pinot Noir we're looking for.

Yesterday we picked Pinot Noir for a new Foursight project: a dry Pinot Noir rose'. We're really excited to make a true rose', picking early, pressing gently, letting the juice sit on the skins for a few hours to get that nice pink color, and then fermenting it into a strawberry-laced, crisp wine that I can't wait to enjoy here in the tasting room, or with a meal next spring and summer.

Here are a few images from the madness in the past few days. We also got some amazing video, so I'll throw something together soon to really show you the chaos! :)

Here's to a great harvest and amazing 2011 wines!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Getting Closer to Harvest at Charles Vineyard

Finally, everything looks purple out there in the Pinot Noir blocks! Veraison is pretty much through and we'll do a berry sample tomorrow to establish a baseline for sugars, acid and pH. We're estimating that we might be picking for our dry Pinot Noir rose in a few weeks.

As for the crop, it's going to be light on the dijon Pinot Noir clones, but closer to normal on the Pommard Pinot. The Sauvignon Blanc actually seemed to set a decent crop this year, despite the cool, wet weather. All in all, this will be a light year, not a bumper crop harvest.

However it turns out, we're all excited to see things moving along and progressing out there. It will be the latest harvest we've ever experienced at Foursight, but I'm sure it will make fantastic wine!