It's been an interesting harvest, if nothing else -- one that we won't soon forget. The second-latest on record for Foursight's Charles Vineyard (three days earlier than 2010), it seems we've had heat, rain, and everything in between. How does that mean the wines will turn out? Well, that depends...
For those of us lucky enough to have everything off the vine before the rains started, it was a good harvest. I believe the majority of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir falls into this category (50%+). The 2011 growing season provided a longer-than-usual hang time for the grapes, but without the 2010 heat spike that caused some sunburn. Indian summer conditions helped to ripen everything in September, just in time for the rains, which truly started Monday, October 3rd.
Rains followed the next week, off and on, bringing us about 3 inches on the valley floor (totaling up all the storms). I think that the grapes that were the closet to being ripe suffered the most -- sugar setback, rot, and the like were all problems to be faced after multiple inches of rain. Those people trying to get 25+ brix for their Pinots likely had to hang through the rain.
Many producers picked their remaining fruit this week, getting everything off the vine while it's sunny and warm again. There will still be some bigger reds and whites out there, and late harvest grapes of course. As moisture promotes botrytis mold, which then helps dehydrate the grapes and sweetens them up, this may actually be a great year for dessert wines!
Overall, it's going to be a tough vintage for many, but like last year I think we were saved by the noble Pinot Noir grape. As it's adapted to cool climates, it also tends to be earlier ripening, meaning that many -- like us -- were able to escape the bad weather.
At Foursight, we're extremely excited about how the Pinots are looking. Everything was brought in during our perfect window: 23-24 Brix. Acids are naturally high, and flavors are good. The stems and seeds managed to to ripen enough for us to do our typical 30% whole cluster fermentations and the fermentations via wild yeast all went through perfectly. We've now been pressing the Pinot in our basket press, and starting to barrel it all down. We're looking forward to everything winding down and some rest!