The harvest of 2011 could well be classified as an interminable wait, punctuated by frenetic bouts of picking activity, followed by yet more interminable waiting, nail biting, some pleas to heaven for abatement of rain, and abundance of sun, followed by thankful, hurried blitzkriegs of picking in advance of yet more grey, gloomy, ill-portending storm clouds.
Many regions suffered dramatic crop shortages and loss due to rot and botrytis: most areas of the state were down in terms of overall production. Nature has a way of evening things out: after big boom crops in the middle of the previous decade, things are approaching some level of balance. Growers are getting a bit more per ton: they just have a lot less of it to capitalize on.
Here at Burrell School, Thanksgiving was a heartfelt occasion of true gratitude: most of all, for the bounty of family, with which the Moulton’s have been well-blessed, and for the wider bounty of the Wine Club family to which many of you belong. Thanks go out to you, as always, for your support. We are always trying to earn it.
Many thanks were also given for the relatively fruitful and tasty harvest, both from the estate vineyards and from those vineyards where Burrell School sources fruit, mostly in the Santa Clara Valley and in the hills of Saratoga. Old Vine Carignane was a delight, from the Blake Vineyard, and will be part of Class Reunion.
Here’s a summary of harvest activity here at the Schoolhouse:
Picking began on September 9th with Estate Pinot Noir, clones 667 and 777, followed by a hiatus, then came the Chardonnay, along with more Pinot. Then Merlot, Syrah, Cab Franc and Cab Sauv from the Estate Pichon Vineyard. Finally, the estate Merlot came in, and the last was the Petit Verdot, as per usual.
In the always worth waiting for category, the last grapes picked were Cabernet Sauvignon on 11-3 from the
Luchessi Vineyard in Saratoga. This gem of a vineyard is located in one of the sweet spots in the hills that were categorized by Paul Masson and Martin Ray as the “Chaine d’Or,” or chain of gold: this referred to sunny places where warmth made possible the ripening of Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape that likes more heat than most of the Santa Cruz Mountains can muster.
Overall, the total tonnage was 42.75 tons, about 72% of what was expected. The yields were somewhat low, but the flavors rank high on the scale, and everyone shares the sweet anticipation of a truly delicious crop of new wines for the 2011 vintage.
Winemaker Dave says “Super flavors!’ But he does have a few barrels left over, as do most winemakers here in the mountains.
The final day of harvest activity on the crush pad occurred right before Thanksgiving, when the Luchessi Cabernet Sauvignon was pressed off , followed by a load of Crignane, and finishing with a press load of old vine Mataro.
Now begins the long winter of waiting, as the barrels rest in the cellar, and the process of malolactic fermentation begins: when the malic acid is converted to the softer, rounder lactic acid, giving the resulting wines a creamier, smoother mouthfeel.
Here’s to another year in the life of the grapevine: they will slowly shed their gorgeous gold and chestnut livery and will stand, bare and stark in the low winter’s light, awaiting the lifegiving rains that will help them put forth in green glory anew come the Spring of 2012.
May your holidays be filled with warmth, friendship and the bonds that are formed over a bottle of wine: truly one of the most symbolic emblems of the cycle of life here on earth. We are all truly blessed to be part of this amazing web of life, labor, love and devotion.