After the Labor Day hot spell, it seemed that harvest couldn’t get any more challenging. Wrong! The Spring Mountain District has been extremely fortunate to have escaped the fires and most of the smoke but no power, no internet, no cell service, no access and no information have stressed everyone to the max. Yet harvest continues and will continue for at least another week or more, mostly with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. As usual, everyone is doing their very best to make the best wine possible.
The warmer weather has spurred even more harvesting than last week, but there’s no particular hurry. Most are finishing up with merlot and picking Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s some talk about finishing up around the middle of the month and others might see some Cabernet franc go until the end of the month. The pHs seem to be rising and the grapes are being very stingy in giving up their normal amount of juice.
The warmer weather has spurred more harvesting on Spring Mountain, but not by much. Many of us are picking some cabernet and merlot, yet others are waiting until next week. Mike Chelini at Stony Hill thinks he’ll be finishing up harvest on Friday with his cabernet sauvignon. Mike is pleased that the crop is larger than last year and that it has great chemistry and great flavors – ‘I like the vintage a lot.’
Continued cool weather is putting smiles on all of us. This no need to rush picking is creating a lovely no-stress harvest. “Not doing much” is how Ron Rosenbrand of Spring Mountain Winery summed up this week. Andy Schweiger added that they’re “taking our time” and picking a little Cabernet as it reaches perfection. Cain is doing the same with some picking of Merlot and maybe some Cabernet Sauvignon by week’s end. Most other wineries like Paloma, 7&8 and Stony Hill will likely not get serious about the reds until next week.
Activity on Spring Mountain has slowed down. The last of the whites are being crushed now and many of us are trying a few loads of reds. With the cool weather forecast for this week most of us are anticipating next week as the real beginning of the red wine harvest. Personally, the heat spike hurt us quite badly in several blocks, but we seem to be the exception, which is good for the mountain.
The good news is that most wineries with white grapes are picking and several are close to finishing. The chemistry of the whites is fabulous with great pHs and TAs. Unfortunately, the heat spell didn’t help much. Some of the weaker red vines with exposed fruit have some shriveling. These high temperatures are reminiscent of both the 1980 and 1984 vintages which similarly had high daytime and high nighttime temperatures. Fortunately, these were both excellent vintages.
Harvest has begun on Spring Mountain with Spring Mountain winery harvesting small quantities of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir. Both Stony Hill and Smith-Madrone are pushing hard into their chardonnay blocks. Clearly the warm weather has advanced harvesting, yet rain showers and low clouds in late May played mischief with set on certain high elevation blocks during bloom that resulted in small berries and below average production. Fortunately, the chemistry and flavors indicate an excellent vintage.
Great vintage,’ ‘looking really good,’ ‘very happy with the fruit,’ ‘spectacular’ and ‘what an easy harvest’ are many of the comments describing the 2016 harvest. Clearly the crop was up from 2015 and even a few wineries were at traditional averages for their merlot and/or cabernet sauvignon. Spring Mountain Winery, Pride, York Creek and maybe both Paloma and Sherwin will have some fruit that will weather upcoming rain.
The tiny rainfall on Sunday and Monday settled the dust and was a pleasant relief, yet with many of the Spring Mountain wineries continuing their fast pace of picking. This little rain respite is allowing them to catch up with some sugars that took a little jump with last week’s heat spike. Depending on exposure, slope and/or tree shading, other wineries are holding out for more hang time and maturity. Fortunately, pHs are holding up well, tank space isn’t a problem and everyone harvesting is thrilled with the great flavors. By the middle of next week, a majority of the wineries should be finished with harvest.
Our mountain continues with its eclectic way of life with some wineries having finished, while others have yet to start. Keenan, Smith-Madrone, Stony Hill and Togni have all finished. Cain and Spring Mountain, after a short break, both are hard charging with cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot. While Schweiger is almost finished, and both Paloma and 7 & 8 have both barely started they all are waiting for cooler weather to return for more hang time before re-starting. Kieu Hoang and Sherwin are waiting for the same reasons before they even begin their harvests. There is unanimity that the fruit is beautiful with great flavors and good acid and pH.
This week has been much more active than the past several weeks. Most of the wineries are very active finishing up their whites or harvesting the spectrum of reds with merlot, cabernet sauvignon or even cabernet franc. It appears that the spring showers, elevation and maybe just plain old chance has created another vintage on the mountain with a goodly amount of diversity. For some, the merlot crop is back up to normal, yet for others it’s certainly larger than 2014 but nowhere near normal.
This week seems very similar to last week. Moderate to cooler weather with sporadic picking across various varieties. School House and Spring Mountain finished their pinot noir and chardonnay last week, along with Stony Hill finishing both their chardonnay and riesling. Keenan also finished their chardonnay last week and along with Cain are both going strong this week with their merlot and some small outlier blocks of cabernet sauvignon. Schweiger, 7 & 8 and Pride are still waiting to start their chardonnay.
With last week’s continued moderate weather there was only scattered harvesting. Stony Hill finished their gewürztraminer and Smith-Madrone finished both their chardonnay and riesling. Both wineries found beautiful fruit, great flavors and fabulous chemistry along with higher tonnages than in 2015, yet still not up to an average crop year. This week’s pace will definitely pick up with Keenan getting after their chardonnay, Stony Hill likely finishing their chardonnay, and Spring Mountain Winery going hard for both their chardonnay and pinot noir. Schweiger may start by the end of this week.
With last week’s cool weather and the next 10 days forecast for the same cool weather, it’s pretty quiet on the mountain. Spring Mountain Winery has finished sauvignon blanc and is starting pinot noir. Smith-Madrone did a block of chardonnay on Saturday and was very pleased with the quality, but now we’re waiting for a little more maturity from the other blocks. Stony Hill will start this week with some chardonnay, yet Keenan, Schweiger and Pride are thinking at least another week for their chardonnay.
Spring Mountain Winery is the first to start on the mountain. They’ve harvested some sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and chardonnay. Stony Hill and Smith-Madrone will likely start toward the end of this week, with Keenan, Schweiger and Pride Mountain still some ways off for chardonnay. Early trends seem to be a very good merlot crop, a below average crop for cabernet sauvignon and a longer than normal veraison for reds.
Most, but not all of us have finished. Vineyard 7 & 8 will be hard at it this week and next. York Creek and Pride still have several weeks to go. The early bud push, drought, and recurring heat with low humidity have been very hard on our vines and it shows. Because of the very small crop, picking costs have been exorbitant. It's not been any easier on those of us who tend the vines or make the wine. Even with indications of exceptional quality (great color, flavors and chemistry) most of us will be happy to see the end of this harvest.
With just over an inch of rain last week, harvest slowed down considerably. This week most folks are finishing their merlot and are waiting a little longer for the cabernet sauvignon to ripen. York Creek is very happy that their zinfandel, merlot and petite syrah came in heavier than expected. Both Keenan and Spring Mountain wineries are only modestly down from last year, yet all of us have at least one if not several blocks that have yields that are dramatically down (60-plus percent) from last year. Stony Hill and Smith-Madrone finished last week and Schweiger will finish this week. The color, flavor profiles and chemistry continue to impress us all.
Harvest is slowly picking up speed. Being lower on the mountain, Spring Mountain Winery has finished their sauvignon blanc, semillon and pinot noir and are deep into their chardonnay with slightly lower crops. School House has also finished their chardonnay and pinot noir. Stony Hill has finished both their chardonnay and gewurztraminer and is waiting on their riesling. Smith-Madrone has started on both chardonnay and riesling, and Keenan will start this Friday with chardonnay. The reds are still weeks away. Early reports are that juice chemistry and quality are excellent. For those of us with vines that bloomed during May it may be some of the worst shatter any of us have ever seen.
Stu's last harvest report for the Spring Mountain District:
While most of the mountain has completed harvest, a few have not. The recent weather has been fabulous and with no rain in sight there's not a lot of urgency by some. York Creek, Pride and Kieu Hoang still have a substantial percentage to go before finishing in several weeks, while 7 & 8 and Sherwin are harvesting this week and may finish this week or next.
The fabulous weather for the last 10 days has allowed harvest to proceed with nearly perfect conditions. This week Stony Hill, Schweiger and Keenan will be finishing chardonnay. This week numerous wineries are starting Merlot in a serious way with a few wineries dabbling in small blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon. The acids and pHs are in perfect balance; flavors tend to be developing at lower sugar levels than normal. Everyone is anticipating a serious go at Cabernet in the upcoming weeks.
Stu's harvest report for the District this week:
"Harvest is still quiet on Spring Mountain with the exception of the same wineries. Stony Hill has finished their chardonnay and is moving into their riesling. Smith-Madrone has finished our riesling and is going back to finish our chardonnay. Spring Mountain Winery is now finished with their sauvignon blanc and pinot noir and moving into their chardonnay and merlot. Schweiger is also starting their merlot and chardonnay. Mike Chelini called his Stony Hill chardonnay 'perfect' and Smith-Madrone echoes the same 'sediment' with our riesling."
Stu's report for the Spring Mountain District this week:
"Spring Mountain District officially started harvest last Friday with Spring Mountain Winery harvesting a small amount of sauvignon blanc. They anticipate continuing with sauvignon blanc this week and starting with pinot noir. Higher up on the mountain not much has been happening. A few wineries are anticipating starting with chardonnay in the week of Aug. 25. Flavors seem to be developing at lower sugars than usual and the crop looks very good and clean. Everyone's anticipating a wonderful harvest."
Several of the wineries were looking at full cellars, so the rain delay in harvesting provided a welcome relief. Additionally, the rain settled the dust, cleaned off the grapes and leaves and just scrubbed the whole mountain until it sparkled. Because of the cool and windy weather following the rain there is zero concern for rot. Spring Mountain Winery, Cain Cellars, Pride and York Creek Vineyards are far from being done. Stony Hill has finished, Smith-Madrone and Keenan are nearing the end. The vines are holding up, but the small Cabernet berries this year are giving lower than usual juice yields.
As of today, we've harvested about 90% and are still waiting for one block each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to come in. The weather during harvest has been fabulous. The vines have been holding up very well and the grapes have good flavors, low pHs and high acid. The crop is, as normal, mixed depending on when each varietal bloomed. The Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were similar to last year's crops – down from historical averages. Both the Riesling and Cabernet franc were up in production primarily because of replanted young blocks coming into production. The Cabernet Sauvignon has unusually small berries with a correspondingly small juice to skin ratio.
The one commonality about the harvest on Spring Mountain is that everyone agrees we have had great weather, the vines are holding up splendidly, the berries are small and very flavorful, perfect sugars, low pHs and high TAs. The whites have mostly been harvested with the exception of small blocks at Terra Valentine and Seven & Eight. Most wineries are harvesting their cabernet or merlot or both, yet as usual, others such as Pride, Guilliams, Paloma and Barnett are still waiting for their reds.
Stu's weekly harvest report for the Spring Mountain District this week:
"Little on Spring Mountain lends itself to generalization. Stony Hill, Spring Mountain winery and Smith-Madrone are all finished with their whites. Many of us are harvesting cabernet and a little merlot. Schweiger may start by week's end. Cain starts this week with merlot, yet Keenan is waiting on merlot, but starting cabernet. Crop levels are modest and the grapes are holding their own in this heat. Cabernet is on par with last year's crop, which for the mountain was down from our historical averages. It is a very early harvest for the reds."
Stu's final harvest report for the Spring Mountain District, for the week of November 1:
"Very little has changed since last week with only two Spring Mountain District producers with fruit still on the vines. Even with the Wednesday rain there should be little or no damage to the cabernet sauvignon that is still out. It was a wonderful harvest and we all expect a great vintage."
Stu's harvest report for the Spring Mountain District for the week of October 25:
"A wonderful harvest is over for almost all Spring Mountain wineries, but not all. A big push this past week brought in most of the remaining grapes, especially if tank space was available. Several vineyards will wait out the inch-plus rainfall that came early Monday and likely will not finish until early November."
Stu's harvest report for the Spring Mountain District for the week of October 18:
"It's been another week of everyone doing their own thing on their own time. Some wineries are very busy picking this week, while others are taking it slow and waiting. Some are done and cleaning up while others are just beginning. If you're high on the mountain your cabernet crop is down, if you're closer to the valley your cabernet crop is up. The one commonality is the merlot crop is both large and late."
Stu's harvest report for the Spring Mountain District for the week of October 11:
"Many of the higher elevation wineries on SpringMountain are actively harvesting cabernet sauvignon and almost anything else that's left on the vines. They are also anticipating the end of harvest later this week or early next week. However, Pride, York Creek, Guilliams and Sherwin will not finish until toward the end of October, as will the lower-elevation wineries that are still waiting on the cabernet sauvignon."
Stu's harvest report for the Spring Mountain District for the week of October 4:
"Barbara Richards of Paloma believes this may be the 'best merlot crop in years' — a common sentiment on the mountain. Also, the mountain is experiencing a small cabernet sauvignon crop with small clusters, small berries and intense color and flavors. After these two facts, the mountain is out of sync. Some wineries have finished, others haven't started, some are harvesting cabernet before merlot while others are harvesting merlot before cabernet. Go figure!"
Stu's harvest report for the Spring Mountain District for the week of September 27: "It's been a lovely and wonderful harvest so far — near perfection. By the end of this week, Stony Hill, Spring Mountain Winery and Smith-Madrone will have finished with white grapes, yet Keenan and Schweiger will not have started with their whites. Pinot noir seems to be the only red being harvested on the mountain. The reds are showing wonderful flavors at this early stage, but the main harvest of the mountain is still several weeks off."
Stu's harvest report for the Spring Mountain District for the week of September 20: "Most of the wineries with white grapes expect to start later this week. Those that have harvested chardonnay have seen great chemistry in the grapes along with a substantial rebound in crop size from last year. For many of us, the cabernet sauvignon crop is appearing smaller than first thought."
Stu's harvest report for the Spring Mountain District for the week of September 13: "The mountain is in a waiting mood. While mostly complete, there are still blocks of reds that have not finished veraison."
Stu's harvest report for the Spring Mountain District for the week of September 6, 2012: "With warmer weather, Spring Mountain Winery is harvesting some sauvignon blanc and pinot noir. Stony Hill is getting in some chardonnay and Gewürztraminer and Smith-Madrone is also bringing in some chardonnay. Other than these small blocks, the mountain is in a waiting mood. While mostly complete, there are still blocks of reds that have not finished veraison."
Stu's harvest report for the Spring Mountain District for the week of August 30, 2012: "Spring Mountain Winery may start harvest toward the end of this week with sauvignon blanc and pinot noir. However, the rest of the mountain is still waiting and enjoying this wonderful weather. The cabernet sauvignon and merlot are almost through veraison, while the cabernet franc is about 75 percent completed. Harvest appears to be running about a week later than 'normal.'"
Stu's harvest report for the Spring Mountain District for the week of August 23, 2012: "It seems 2012 is 'back to normal.' Cabernet has an average crop, while merlot and cab franc are definitely larger, causing a fair amount of crop thinning. Cabernet sauvignon is about 50 percent through veraison while cab franc is below that. Harvest might start about a week later than normal."