Saturday, October 15, 2011

France and Napa vs. Anderson Valley

Sometimes it amazes me to think about how tiny Anderson Valley is by comparison to any other well known appellation within California. It's even more interesting to compare it to famous winegrowing regions internationally. For an extremely small valley like ours to have any kind of reputation for premium winegrapes and wine is a big accomplishment, and it makes me proud to be a part of it.

Seven Top French Wine Regions by Acres of Vines

  • Languedoc-Roussillon 528,000 Acres
  • Bordeaux 306,000 Acres
  • Rhône Valley 188,700 Acres
  • Loire Valley 158,000 Acres
  • Burgundy 125,000 Acres
  • Champagne 75,000 Acres
  • Alsace 34,000 Acres
Paso Robles has 26,000 planted acres, and Napa Valley has 45,000. Russian River is a mere 10,000 planted acres.

Guess how many planted acres Anderson Valley has?  2,244. That's it. Two thousand,  two hundred and forty four planted acres. Mostly of Pinot Noir. A drop in the bucket, but a passionate drop. :)

Click here for the official 2010 vineyard census.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Vintage 2011 in Anderson Valley

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!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Rain Arrives

Rain arrived in Anderson Valley at about 5 a.m.-ish (took me a few minutes to wake up enough to realize it was rain, then to look at the clock). It sounded like it was absolutely pouring at our house under the trees, but the rain gauge only reported less than 1/4". Not so terrible so far...

I would estimate the majority of the fruit here has been picked, but the ridge top and slope vineyards are still hanging both whites and reds, as well as fruit at the deep end (closest to the coast). Some of our neighbors again picked all night last night. After the chaos of the past week, it's probably a nice job to process freshly harvested fruit today while it sprinkles outside. I know from talking to the picking crews, while we were sorting fruit in the vineyard yesterday, that they're glad for the time off.

The forecast predicts some showers tomorrow, then into Wednesday, but nothing more in the 10-day. Let's hope for all the farmers out there (not just of grapes) that the rain moves through quickly and then hot weather dries it back out!


Sunday, October 2, 2011

2011 Foursight Harvest Experience

Yesterday we had an amazing day with an intimate group of Foursight Wine Club Members. For our first-ever Harvest Experience, we invited club members to join us for a day that explored the behind-the-scenes winery and vineyard work (everything you don't see when you simply visit the tasting room). Even though it was drizzly and gray, it was a fantastic day of touring, tasting and eating -- the perfect trio, in our humble opinion.

While Ozzie our winery dog supervised (also known as begging), we had some sparkling wine and small bites in the tasting room, then headed out into the vineyard for a tour with Foursight Winegrower Bill Charles. We tasted berries, then the corresponding wines, and discussed grape growing and how the vineyard is represented in each of the wines. We tested the sugar levels of grapes still hanging, and chatted about the challenges of farming.

Ozzie, satisfied after an entire pulled pork sandwich!
Family recipes - perfect with bubbles!
After our vineyard tour, we headed back to the winery to taste just-pressed Semillon juice, then Pinot Noir juice through the stages of fermentation, and finally the finished Semillon and Pinot Noirs. Our winemaker (and my wonderful hubby), Joe Webb, walked attendees through our winemaking process and invited everyone help us do punch downs (thanks guys!). It was great to see our club members getting dirty!

After wrapping up in the winery, we enjoyed an al fresco lunch of pulled pork and other treats, and of course more wine!
Bill Charles enjoys a glass of wine.
Thank you to everyone who attended. We truly enjoyed showing you the other side of our business here, and it sounds like we'll have to do another Harvest Experience in the future!