With a near perfect summer the 2012 growing season is promising to be a great one. Dawnine Dyer talking about the vintage thus far.
The drama of Napa's 2011 growing season still looms large and an unusually dry winter had the entire gower community bracing for the worst. But Mother Nature took a chill-pill and delivered a very wet early spring. Bud break arrived right on schedule and the vines sprung into action with time-lapse like speed.
You can take a walk around the vinyeard by viewing this gallery of "living pictures" shot with the new Lytro camera. The Lytro captures light waves vs pixels and allows a viewer to change the focal point by clicking on various parts of the picture. You can give it a try in the picture above - click on Meteor's signature Blue Oak on the horizon and watch it come into focus. Then click on the leaf in the foreground. Enjoy the full gallery.
Patrick Comiskey’s December 2011 article in Wine and Spirits Magazine is one of the most thorough articles written about Coombsville. Capturing everything from the historical foundation of the name (Nathan Coombs’ farm, which he called “Willows”, forms the central part of what is now the town of Napa) to an exploration of the complex geologic nature of the regions soils.
A couple of favorite quotes;
“If Coombsville has an epicenter, it’s Meteor Vineyard…”
“When marine incursion layers snake in the Napa Valley from San Pablo Bay, they arrive here first and leave last, resulting in one of the valley’s longest growing seasons.”
“Almost all of the soils of the area are some combination of two components: accumulated landslide debris, something (Jonathan) Swinchatt calls colluvium: and layers of light, flaky volcanic ash, from Mt. George eruptions.”
“In addition to to the colluvium and tuff melange, Meteor’s soils have a high proportion of cobble in the mix. No one is quite sure where this cobble comes from, but the landslide activity may have pushed it there, the way glaciers push debris from one place to another. The drainage that cobble affords the soil, in addition to the air drainage down this west facing slope and the prominent exposure at the top of the knoll all combine to set this site apart. This may, in fact, be Coombsville’s cru.”
3 things come to the forefront in a vintage like 2010 – experience, patience and perseverence. In a meeting with Mike Wolf yesterday he displayed and comforted with all 3.
Anyone who has spent any time in nature understands that the logic of the natural world, while identifiable on a molecular level, is unstable and downright confusing on the macro level. How many times have you scratched your head in wonder while weather.com or your local weather person proclaims a likely rainless day as the showers pour down? While Mike can’t predict the rain (though he can exhaustively gather and analyze data on pressure systems, moisture levels, etc.) his experience and patience were tantamount to where we are now in the vintage cycle.
A quick recap of phenology;
March 19 Budbreak
June 3 50% Bloom
August 16 50% Verasion
Anticipated harvest? Second week of October?
Nature is in control. That is the undeniable reality of the wine business.
When the sun broke through the fog this morning around 1030a, it immediately drew me outside for a stroll around the vineyard. In the 10 days since my last post about cool temps and rising concerns about ripeness, the blogobabble has continued to bubble. Some critics have noted the likelihood of lower alcohols, not neccesarily a bad thing, though in more temperate Coombsville one of our struggles is finding the magic balance between fruit and acid which often means a little extra hang time on the vine. Others have already written off the vintage for late harvesting grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon. Talk to industry veterans though and they seem much less fazed. Vineyard Manager Mike Wolf is waiting for verasion to proceed a little further before sending the crew back into the vineyard for some “draconian” thinning. In the meantime, the color transformation continues…
When the vineyard crew took to the vines last Thursday I quickly grabbed my camera.
Mike Wolf’s team was en mass in the vineyard last Thursday in pass #2 of what we anticipate to be multiple passes through the vineyard. The technique is pretty simple – wait for the beginning of verasion and then thin the clusters that are most delayed. We are currently carrying 2 clusters per shoot. If Mike is right about taking “draconian” measures, we could see this cut back even more.
The current projection for the week is continued moderate temperatures with morning cloud cover burning off to afternoon sun.
What a difference a week makes.
While many continue to bemoan the lack of heat, the conversation among vineyard managers is increasingly shifting to pure sunlight hours – after all, it is the sun that produces photosynthesis! The morning fog has been clearing earlier by the day, with mid-afternoon temperatures in the low 80’s and plenty of sunshine. The result was increased pace of verasion and, most importantly for Mike Wolf and his team, clear deliniation between the grapes that will continue hanging on the vine and those that are severed to wilt in the afternoon sun. If it’s green, cut it off…