It is the end of the day on Tuesday, September 27, 2011, and it has been a satisfying day at the winery. I am Tim Bell, the newly-appointed winemaker for Dry Creek Vineyard. It's hard to believe, but we have all our Chenin Blanc and nearly all the Sauvignon Blanc in the house for this year. Some of my colleagues in cooler regions of Sonoma are just starting their white grape harvest. The fruit has been coming in looking clean and fresh. I get a thrill when our cellar master, Jerry, takes a big whiff of the aromas at the hopper and says how much he loves it! "Smell that lemongrass," he tells me, and I feel like I'm at my first crush again. It's nice to see people who get as excited about the promise of harvest as I do.
This has been one of those years where we winemakers have to test our assumptions about the correlation between sugars and flavors. For years, we've been saying that we want to pick on flavor, not just sugar. Usually this has been used as justification for waiting to pick as sugars climb and berries start to wrinkle a little. This year has seen moderate, cool weather for most of the growing season. As a result, we are seeing ripe flavors at lower than normal sugars. So we as winemakers have to be willing to pick when the flavor-sugar relationship shifts on us. Just this morning I was in a block of Zinfandel at Somers that looked and tasted fully ripe. Zinfandel is notorious for needing to be at high sugars to be flavor-ready. But when I saw the numbers from my sample, I couldn't believe it. It will be one of the lowest sugars I've picked Zin at in years. Nevertheless, I know it is time.
Speaking of Zinfandel, we picked our first load of it today; our first crop from the head-trained vines of DCV 2 right in front of the winery. The fruit looks and tastes great. I can't wait until, in future years, we have enough of these four great Zin clones to make small lots of each. With both red and white fermentations going, it will be full-tilt, all-out, harvest crunch time for the cellar crew. The guys seem hungry and ready for action. With a little help from the weather, we are poised to cruise into October at a steady pace for harvest. This is the time of year I live for as a winemakerÂone more chance to get it right!