It’s that time and the grapes have been coming in almost every night. Yesterday our very special plot of Clone 7 Cabernet Sauvignon was picked. These “artisans of the field” have tended to every vine during the season. Trimmed, dropped fruit, made the tough decisions over which clusters would stay on the vine during growing season to concentrate flavors in a purposefully selected yield of fruit. Most of these folks have been tending to our vineyard since it was planted a decade ago.
When the time to pick comes, it is done with grace and speed, not to get a tedious job done, but to get from vine to crush as soon as is possible.
No musical accompaniment to this little video clip would do it justice.
Yesterday the last of our Cabernet was picked. A long leisurely harvest season this year punctuated with a short monsoon this week. No harm as little of the fruit was left and they rode out the storm perfectly. Last night we were presented with this picturesque sunset highlighting the launch of the vines transition to Autumn.
I’ve grown used to the bittersweet feeling of staring at the post-harvest vineyard freshly bare of fruit. It’s like sending your child off to kindergarten. One era ends and a new one begins brimming with potential. And so, with all of the Meteor Vineyard fruit safely picked and crushed, the 2009 Vintage journey begins.
2009 Harvest Summary
The 2009 harvest ended on Saturday October 17 as we scurried to bring in the last block of Cab before rain hit again on Monday. What had been a near perfect growing season turned ugly when over 3 inches of rain fell in one day- not in itself a bad thing, but what followed was several days with humidity over 70%- perfect conditions for botrytis and mold.
At Meteor we had 3/4 of the fruit in before this weather event and made the decision to leave the last block, clone 4 in the vineyard for that last little ripening that turns beast to beauty. Clone 4 always benefits from a little extra “hang time” to smooth it’s rather aggressive tannins and under normal circumstances, a little rain is a non issue.
The balance of the vineyard was picked on Oct 10, a full week earlier, when rain threatened to bring our leisurely late summer to an abrupt close. We started to see complete evolution of flavor and ripe tannin around Oct 5th, but with gently temperatures and little sugar accumulation felt no sense of urgency and squeezed every last bit of flavor from the season. And with rain predicted for the 12th, we pulled the trigger on the clone 7 and 337. Picked at night, the cool fruit was delivered to the waiting destemmer in pristine conditions.
Our partially tamed beast (clone 4) weathered the storm well, but we chose not to tempt fate by leaving it thru a 2nd storm and brought it in. All the blocks are fermenting separately and bring unique elements to the blending… this year we have a tremendous palate to work with.
The final Meteor harvest news is the addition of just under a ton of Petit Verdot. 0.5 acres was eked out of the property and planted in 2004*. Until now the young vineyard has been, well, a young vineyard with all it’s unruly characteristics. This year the Meteor team made the decision to bring it into our fold and it looks beautiful. At this time we’re not sure exactly how we’re going to use it, but in thinking about our 2 wines, it’s potential to be the perfect spice is compelling.
Overall season characteristics at Meteor
1. even bloom
2. long, slow season
3. high pHs (universal in Napa this year)
4. majority picked before the major weather event
Harvest always forces winemakers (and wine lovers) into a game of comparisons. The singular character of a vintage is dependent on an incalculable array of variables; from sunlight hours to rainfall, from the gradations of temperature to the frequency and intensity of wind, from the decisions to green harvest to the agonizing judgment of sending in the crew to pull the fruit from the vine.
The 2009 vintage was incredibly even until the freakish storm that swept in mid-October. But that was nothing compared to the disparate conditions of 2008. Barry refers to it as the year of Fire and Ice.
While harvest is already in swing around Napa Valley for Pinot and white grapes. We are weeks away, particularly in our temperate hilltop at Meteor Vineyard. But time to check in and get a baseline on the physical maturity, brix and a little taste of the berries.
Clusters are plentiful but looking a bit light on berries.
For those not familiar with premium Cabernet Sauvignon fruit, we grow the grape, or berries in viticulture “speak” to be small and highly concentrated in flavor.
We pay particular attention to the seeds and the “jacket” of fruit around it. a mature berry will have a brown seed and no jellied fruit clinging to it. we are weeks away right now as you can see.
And finally a quick take on sugar content or brix. Here is where my handy pocket refractometer is great for a quick read, although our various winemakers and viticulturists will do it the more traditional way. 22.1 ripe for Bordeaux and waiting 10 years to drink, but not even close for Napa’s finest.
Prior to Meteor Vineyard gaining renown for our own label, excitement was building among winemakers and proprietors throughout the valley. In this video we speak those whose passion for the fruit is close to our own. Winemaker and viticulturalists Andy Erickson, Annie Favia, Philippe Melka, Jon Priest, Franci Ashton, Dawnine Dyer and Mike Wolf talk about the unique nature of the fruit from the vineyard; while Fritz Hatton and Robin Lail talk about what compels them about the site and what it adds to their wines.
Just checked the vineyard after three cloudy days with some fairly significant rain on Sunday.
Less than 24 hrs later, a gentle breeze is drying off the clusters and we’re back on track for ripening. We’re not used to summer rains in Napa and tend to freak out a little, but mostly it just washes the dust off and makes the air smell nice. Even so, we’ll be a little more vigilant about botrytis, but for now things look great.
Here comes the inevitable harvest heatwave with HOT HOT HOT predicted starting tomorrow for the next week. With Brix still hovering around 22 we once again are thankful for our cooler microclimate 400 ft above the valley floor. Still we will give the vines plenty to drink to prevent a hyper sugar spike and keep the physical maturity, pH and BRIX all on our favored trajectory. The growing season always comes down to the nail-biting last four weeks. We’ll just keep sampling the pre-release 2006 to keep calm.
I’m not pulling the trigger just yet, but really liked what I saw this morning- especially blk 1, clone 7. Berries softening, even some dimpling, good tannin resolution in skins, color extracting easily, great fruit and brn seeds. The dimpling seems to be comparatively free of raisin characters. blk1, clone 4 still has some hard, green tannin in the skins- not uncharacteristically, and 337 is somewhere in between. Only see positive in waiting thru this cool week and into next, but I think we could see some action by the end of next week.
Blk1, clone 7- 24.7 B, 3.74
Blk 1, clone 4- 23.4 B, 3.58 pH
Blk 3, clone 337- 24.0 B, 3.64 pH