Harvest is almost complete here at Collier Falls in Dry Creek Valley. Last week we picked our Zinfandel and Primitivo grapes, and today we're bringing in our Cabernet Sauvignon crop with sugars around 26 degrees Brix. Our only grapes still hanging after today are a small amount of Petite Sirah, a notoriously late ripening varietal, and a block of Primitivo we're keeping on the vines to use for our dessert wine.
Back in the spring we predicted a late harvest because budbreak came a few weeks past normal. A beautiful start to the summer, with lots of days in the 80s and consistent sunshine had growers around Dry Creek Valley thinking we were back on schedule. But despite such great weather, the crop size turned out to be so hefty that it's taken a long time to ripen all that fruit! So here we are into the 2nd week in October and still not quite finished with harvest. In fact, there are some growers still harvesting Chardonnay, which is unheard of this late in the season for a grape that typically comes off in August.
There's no such thing as a perfect growing season, but all things considered this was one of the most accommodating in Dry Creek Valley in recent memory. Here's my dad's take on things. "It was as close to a perfect summer as a farmer could expect. Temperatures were moderately warm without any heat spikes and allowed for a long growing season so the fruit could develop more complexity on the vine. The only risk is now having late ripening fruit on the edge of the rainy season, which is always a gamble."
The good news for us at Collier Falls is our Cabernet is coming off the vine today before the rain that typically arrives this time of year. But the Petite Sirah that's still out there is always a tricky varietal to fully ripen. Last year the weather was so mild we weren't able to bring in any Petite Sirah grapes at all, and this year the flavors still need to develop a touch more. And to make matters more challenging, those Petite Sirah clusters are very susceptible to any mildew if the rains do arrive before we can harvest.
Aside from the rains, another problem this time of year is the day's get shorter and those temperatures we need to finish ripening the fruit can be hard to reach. Especially as the vines start to slow down and prepare to go dormant for the winter. But we're not there yet, and the forecast predicts another 7 days without too much chance of rain, and hopefully enough sunshine to take care of our Petite Sirah and Late Harvest Primitivo for the 2012 vintage. And now you're up to date on the Collier Falls harvest of 2012 in Dry Creek Valley!
Take a moment before your next sip to consider all of the variables that went into that single glass of wine. It helps me to appreciate the experience a tiny bit more. When I drink our 2012 Cabernet a few years from now, I'll think back to this growing season and today's harvest and where I was in life at this moment. Wine is history in a glass. Be sure and study.