September 1, 2021
Here it is the first day of September and the grapes at two of our Eastern Washington Vineyards are being picked as I write this. Tomorrow is the first day of crush for 2021! In case you are wondering, this is early. We have crushed grapes in August before (in 2015) so this is not the earliest on record but it is indeed early. Normally I throw out 9-11 as the typical starting day for harvest and we are certainly ahead of that. It has been a warmer than normal year and it was predicted that the grapes would be early when we had that mega-heat spell back in June. A lot of people have asked how that early heat spell effected the grapes. The answer is not a lot, an early heat spell is better than a late one. Temperatures well over 100 degrees F can cause lower acidity and sunburn when they occur in August or September, but that early heat has much less effect because the grapes are so tiny.
Still, we have had pretty sustained heat this summer with lots of triple-digit days. While I was in the vineyard last week, I got a pretty good chance to assess the appearance and the flavor of the grapes, then pulling samples and having Robert run analysis back here at the winery gave me a great overview. I went to eight different vineyards, some in cooler sites some in warmer. Overall, I was pretty pleased with what I saw: minimal sunburn, smaller than average berry size, medium to small crop size and good flavors. Yes, I would say that the acidity in some of the warmer sites was below average.
The other big concern, which has become a yearly one at this point, is the potential threat from smoke taint. While there has been some smoke hanging around, it has not been at high levels in most of the areas that we get grapes. I feel pretty good that we will not have an issue this year however, we still have a couple of months of potential fire season, so we are not completely out of the woods yet.
It is always a high-energy time of the year and I am excited to see the grapes come in. We have a great crush crew coming in tomorrow morning and I have a bottle of sparkling wine chilling for our annual blessing of the grapes before the first ones drop into the crusher/stemmer. Tomorrow it is Syrah, Tempranillo and Merlot, a total of about 12 tons. Then it’s back to the vineyard for more samples and planning for the next round.
Wish us luck! I promise to keep in touch.