As to the problems on the vine, it really depends on the variety, where it’s located, and how it’s managed. (This is why there’s no easy answer to this one.) It also depends on the year overall – and this has certainly been a strange one.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, we are in the midst of a late harvest, and that barring bad weather, it could be a great vintage year for Paso Robles’ wines. But the important part of this is that we are able to get the grapes ripened, harvested and in the winery before bad things start happening such as rain or frost.
In general, most varieties aren’t bothered by a little rain during harvest. But certain ones such as Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, which have either thin skins or tight clusters, are more susceptible to bunch rot than most other varieties. Pinots are early ripening so they are mostly done and not affected by recent rains. However, Petite Sirah is a mid-season ripening variety and ready to be harvested right now, so it could be affected. Zinfandel is a late-season variety with tight clusters of large berries. Zin clusters tend to retain moisture inside the cluster and can lead to bunch rot. Only time (the next few weeks to be exact) will tell how Petite Sirah and Zin will weather this storm.
For the rest of the bunch, there can be other juicy problems. Even after the rain has stopped, it can be difficult or impossible to get a crew and equipment into the vineyard. This delay can set off a chain reaction of backups, which lead to labor and equipment shortages because everyone is trying to harvest everything all at once. At this point, if a grower or winemaker can get the fruit to the winery, there may not be room to process all of the fruit at once so some fruit may be left hanging. These grapes will continue to ripen and can be affected by subsequent weather. This means the fruit may no longer meet the winemakers’ “ideal” ripening levels, or even worse, can lead to bad fruit or no fruit.
There are potential solutions for all of these problems, but the reality is, growers and winemakers alike would prefer not to have to deal with them. After a rain, the best thing that can happen for the wine grapes (and all of us dependent upon them whether it to be make a living or simply enjoy) is for the rain clouds to go away, and a few days of bright sunshine and cool breezes to dry the earth and the grape bunches.
So now for a dose of good news! For First Crush customers, so far the late season and the rain has not had a detrimental effect on our harvest weekends and winemaking program, and the outlook is good!
There are cultural practices that minimize the risk of bunch rot due to rains and those practices have been implemented on our potential harvest locations. We will not be harvesting any of the potential troublesome varieties this year. Lastly, we also have several harvest locations to choose from and if the fruit doesn’t meet our winemaking parameters, we have the option of choosing our fruit from a different vineyard.
We have three harvest weekends left for 2010. If you missed out on experiencing your First Crush this year, we hope you will join us next year. We have some new and exciting things in store. We’ll be releasing 2011 dates and information after harvest.
And if you’re really bummed that you missed all of the fun and excitement of the 2010 vintage, we’re going to give you one last chance to join us for a harvest party celebration on October 30, 2010. Check it out here!