Viticulturist Mauro Maldonado updates us on the harvest of our vineyards in and around Sonoma County:
“The season seemed to be progressing very similarly to 2020. Bloom, bunch closure, and veraison all aligned with last year’s phenology data, and harvest seemed like it was going to be early. However, August has been cooler this year, and the maturity of the fruit slowed down. We began sampling on August 10th to get baselines for the blocks that ripen earlier. The cooler temperatures over the last two weeks of August have allowed fruit to mature slowly, and there is great flavor in the blocks farther along while retaining good acid. Although the past two weeks have been very cool, the last few days of August have been in the mid to high 90s. As of now, I would say we are about a week earlier than ‘normal.’
“At Lytton Springs Winery we have brought in carignane from Sandy Lane on August 18th. On the 19th, we picked some trousseau from a small block that was grafted in 2020 at Lytton East. Although it was a VERY small yield, I am excited to work with trousseau, as it makes very interesting wines. On August 28th, zinfandel and carignane were harvested from Buchignani Ranch and we will continue receiving fruit. On the 29th, Four Seasons Vineyard Management picked zinfandel from Mazzoni Ranch and followed up on Monday, August 30th, with zinfandel from part of Boatman. Another recent pick was the zinfandel and carignane from Demostene to finish August and kick off September. We have also started picking some fruit from Lytton West for rosé, syrah, and viognier. Part of Fredson Ranch has been picked to go into the Geyserville, and we’re working our way through Funsten Ranch which goes into the East Bench.”
The first pick of Harvest 2021 started with Evangelho, which came into the Monte Bello winery on August 10th. Director of Vineyard Operations, Kyle Theriot, is preparing for more:
“What stands out about this year’s weather, at the Monte Bello Estate, is the inversion layer; it has kept us on our toes. Typically, the daytime temps at our lower elevations are warmer, and the nighttime temps cooler. At higher elevation, the climate is usually more temperate. The days are cooler and the nights are warmer. During the 2021 growing season, our coolest nights have indeed been at lower elevation, but we have consistently seen the warmest days at higher elevation. The rate of maturation across the mountain was flipped on its head. Generally, our harvest pattern starts in the lower vineyards and moves up, but this year’s harvest started with Chardonnay at our highest elevation. This was soon followed by some young Cab on the same ranch.
“It’s now September, and today we’re sampling chardonnay grapes from Jimsomare and Rousten while harvesting merlot and cabernet at Torre and Perrone. Normally we have 10-12 samples in a day, but the weather I mentioned previously has us sampling 28-30 different lots. We use EVI (Enhanced Vegetative Index) mapping technology that overlays areas of stress and vigor within the vineyard, and we sample those areas individually. Those samples then go to our lab where we measure sugar, pH, total acidity, malic acid, and yeast assimilable nitrogen to give us an indicator of optimum maturity. Each sample undergoes blind tasting as well. Tasting notes compared to those chemistries determine where and what we will harvest next. This year, instead of blocks maturing in spread stages, we are seeing that everything is ripening at about the same pace. This week we have recruited help from the Four Seasons Vineyard Management team to come down and help us catch up.”