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Press Releases

2011 HARVEST UPDATE: Sonoma County Winemakers Address Fall Rains

PDFE-mail

October 11, 2011 – Santa Rosa, CA:  Sonoma County Vintners, the premier marketing organization for Sonoma County’s wine and wineries, will be issuing a series of monthly updates on the 2011 harvest season from the perspectives of wineries in each of Sonoma County’s largest regions.

After last week’s rains, we wanted to check with winemakers and their vineyard teams to get a sense of how and if their grapes were impacted.

In the Sonoma Valley, Chateau St. Jean winemaker Margo Van Staaveren felt confident that the Bordeaux red varietal grapes would easily weather the moderately heavy rains, she had concerns for the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  

To minimize losses and maintain quality, Van Staaveren’s team “worked all weekend long to bring in those vineyards particularly susceptible.”  

In the Russian River Valley, Rodney Strong Vineyards Director of Winegrowing Douglas McIlroy shared the following report:  

“Fortunately the majority of our vineyards that are significantly susceptible to rain were picked prior to the storms, and the portions that were not will be picked will be very shortly, i.e. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel.  We were able to achieve this with the cooperation of our growers and our experienced winemaking and winegrowing team, who stayed ahead of the game scheduling our picks. We feel that this preparation and timing will result in little or no impact on quality from the rain for us with varieties this harvest.”

“While we still have most of our Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to go as the weather clears, these rain tolerant varieties will be our next focus. We want to ensure that these varietals fully express themselves, which what wine lovers expect from Sonoma County.  By continuing to carefully harvest our Cabernet, Merlot and other Bordeaux varieties at their optimum ripeness, the rest of harvest should turn out well.  Of course we will continue to keep a watchful on the weather ahead and enjoy any warm days we get.”

In the Dry Creek Valley, Quivira Vineyards & Winery Winemaker Hugh Chappelle had the following comments relating to last week’s rains:

“While weather conditions throughout the growing season have defined the character of the vintage, the recent and current rains remain a challenge for all wineries both large and small. At Quivira, we do not currently have any concerns about the dilution of aromas and flavors resulting from the late-season rainfall, but we’re working extremely diligently in both the vineyards and the winery to sort out even smallest amounts of botrytis and late season rot that already existed in the vineyards due to this year’s unseasonably cool weather conditions, but have accelerated with the wet conditions.”

“At Quivira, we have the ability to slow down and do the rigorous sorting in both the vineyard and the winery necessary to remove any clusters affected by botrytis and rot.  We’ve also been sorting out any raisined clusters that resulted from the pre-rain, late-season heat spike, which particularly affected the Zinfandel.”

In Alexander Valley, Jordan Vineyard & Winery Winemaker Rob Davis commented:

“Our chardonnay and most of our Merlot slid into our presses and tanks just before the initial drops of rain began  --  and I mean just before! It was a real race to beat the weather, and we actually had to cover our Merlot with tarps in the event of an early sprinkle which we got.  It was a huge relief as our next opportunity for us to pick chardonnay would have been after the rain and would require at least a few good days of sunshine to dry out the vineyard.  The growers we work with already had sprayed a preventative botrytis agent in case the fragile Chardonnay did not get harvested before the rain.  The good thing is that the total precipitation is not extensive so that re-entry into the vineyards was quick.

Regarding Cabernet, I think our wines are better when we get one quick sprinkling of rain before we pick it.  The variety wears well with a rain or two as long as it is not prolonged.  The Cabernet skins are thick-- likened to a natural "rain coat".  And the clusters themselves are loose and open to air circulation which inhibits the potential for bunch rot.  Next week the forecast is for temperature in the mid 80s to 90s.  One week of that and we are back in business.”

Nick Frey, President of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, shared the following general update on the 2011 Sonoma County grape harvest:

“Growers have passed the half-way mark in harvest. Pinot Noir was 90+% harvested before the rain. Just a few vineyards in the coolest regions remain. Chardonnay in warmer areas, e.g. Alexander Valley, Sonoma Valley and Dry Creek Valley, are mostly harvested. Harvest continues in cooler regions of the county. Most of the Zinfandel is harvested and all the Sauvignon Blanc is in. Bordeaux varieties have just begun with Merlot leading the way.

Overall yields are down due to spring weather. The cool summer has resulted in good acid retention and low pH and slow maturation for flavor development. Expect wines with good structure that pair well with food and with lower alcohols.”

Sonoma County Vintners will be posting all regional harvest-related news on their website, www.sonomawine.com, and will issue monthly updates throughout the harvest season.

About Sonoma County Vintners
Sonoma County Vintners is the leading voice of Sonoma County wine, dedicated to increasing awareness and improving the quality image of its wines to consumers, media, and trade locally and globally. With almost 65,000 vineyard acres planted among the county’s 13 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), Sonoma County is considered one of the world’s premier winegrowing regions, producing an unparalleled range of varietals and wine styles. SCV has promoted this diversity and quality since 1944, and currently represents more than 165 member wineries and 25 Affiliate Members. For more information on the wines and wineries of Sonoma County, visit www.sonomawine.com.

About Sonoma County Winegrape Commission
The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission was established in 2006 as a non-profit marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions. SCWC’s goal is to increase awareness and recognition of the quality and diversity of Sonoma County’s grapes and wines through dynamic marketing and educational programs targeted to wine consumers around the world. For more information about SCWC and its programs, visit www.sonomawinegrape.org.

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Sara Cummings
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2011 HARVEST HEADS INTO FULL GEAR THROUGHOUT SONOMA COUNTY

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September 28, 2011 – Santa Rosa, CA:  Sonoma County Vintners, the premier marketing organization for Sonoma County’s wine and wineries, will be issuing a series of monthly updates on the 2011 harvest season from the perspectives of wineries in each of Sonoma County’s largest regions.

Grapes for sparkling wines are harvested at a lower sugar level than those being used for still wines, which results in sparkling winemakers typically picking the first grapes each year. In Carneros, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards began harvesting their sparkling Pinot Noir grapes from Glen Ellen on August 24, and their estate vineyards on Saturday September 3. They have finished picking all of the Pinot Noir grapes for sparkling wines and will wrap up picking Chardonnay for sparkling wines by September 29.  The Pinot Noir for still wines on their estate will be picked by October 3, and their estate Chardonnay for still wines should be picked by October 5.

Steven Urberg, Winemaker for Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards had the following comments to share regarding the 2011 Harvest: “The good news is the quality looks very good.  The long slow summer, diminished yield and tiny berries have given us wonderful fruit with plenty of hang time.  So far it looks like a great year for still Pinot Noir.  From the winemaking perspective, I am expecting concentrated wines with intense vineyard character.  The bad news is from the economic perspective, as we are looking at crop levels far below normal.  In other words, if the weather continues for at least a few more days with warm, dry days, we look forward to smaller amounts of wonderful wine that we make from the 2011 harvest.  Right now we are up against rain that is expected next week, early to mid-week.  Fortunately, we are planning to have all of our fruit in prior to the middle of next week, so we're hoping for a speedy end to harvest.”

In the Sonoma Valley, Chateau St. Jean received their first grapes on Tuesday, September 6.  The first pick was Sauvignon Blanc coming in from one of the County’s warmest areas, Alexander Valley. As of this week, the winery has received about half of their expected Sauvignon Blanc (from Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley) and Pinot Noir (coming from the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley).  Their Pinot Gris harvesting is complete and they are just starting Chardonnay, which is being harvested from the Robert Young and Belle Terre Vineyards in Alexander Valley.

Chateau St. Jean Winemaker Margo Van Staaveren highlighted the results so far by saying, “Though the yield is down in Sauvignon Blanc and slightly down in Pinot Noir, the quality looks very nice.  Acidities are bright and we look forward to well-structured wines with good depth.”

In the Russian River Valley, Rodney Strong Vineyards started harvest September 6 with some northern Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc which was used for their annual blessing of the grapes. September 8 brought Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley, the first of the season for our Winery within a Winery, where smaller lots of wines are made.
Mid September brought more Sauvignon Blanc from Alexander Valley, along with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley, all at a moderate pace.

According to Douglas McIlroy, Rodney Strong’s Director of Winegrowing, “Things really picked up last week and harvest started and continues to be in full swing with Sauvignon Blanc along with some Chardonnay from the Alexander Valley as well as some Zinfandel from our Hubbard Ranch, also in Alexander Valley. We’re also bringing in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot from Russian River Valley and southern Sonoma Coast. Overall yields are down quite a bit, in some case even lower than estimated. Quality seems to be similar to last year, which was excellent for most vineyards harvested before the fall rains. The warm weather in recent weeks has really moved things along this year.”

In the Dry Creek Valley, Quivira Vineyards & Winery began their harvest on September 8, the same day as in 2010. They have just completed picking of their Sauvignon Musque, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurtztraminer and Viognier and began their Zinfandel, Syrah and mixed Rhones for Rose on September 25. All grapes are from the Dry Creek Valley.

Hugh Chappelle, Quivira Vineyards & Winery Winemaker and Grower had the following comments on this first month of harvest: “2011 is shaping up to be a more compressed harvest than usual.  We usually would not be finished harvesting our estate fruit until the end of October/early November.  This year, consistently warm temperatures have us on track to harvest all of our estate fruit by mid-October.”
Chappelle also shared some thoughts on his Zinfandel, which is one of Dry Creek Valley’s most planted varietals: “2011 is shaping up to be a very compressed harvest.  What we normally spread across 3+ weeks will likely need to be picked in 2 weeks or less.  Our early picked Zinfandel is showing bright red fruit flavors and classic dark fruit notes with nicely balanced acidity.” 

Jordan Vineyard & Winery in Alexander Valley brought their first Russian River Chardonnay grapes in on Tuesday, September 27.  Jordan Winemaker Rob Davis commented, “We are only into our second day of harvest of Chardonnay, but what we are experiencing is consistent with our observations of the growing season: very good acidity due to the coolness of the summer and nice varietal flavors, but cluster weights are off by 25% which is the principal reason for below average yields in the vineyards. In addition, small cluster weights are pressing out smaller juice yields by another factor of 10%. Equally light is the Merlot and Cabernet.  The maturation cycle is very similar to last year. The weather could not be better. A minimum of two-three more weeks of growing time is absolutely essential to ensuring the crop to come in as optimal as possible.” 

Sonoma County Vintners will be posting all regional harvest-related news on their website, www.sonomawine.com, and will issue monthly updates throughout the harvest season.

About Sonoma County Vintners
Sonoma County Vintners is the leading voice of Sonoma County wine, dedicated to increasing awareness and improving the quality image of its wines to consumers, media, and trade locally and globally. With almost 65,000 vineyard acres planted among the county’s 13 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), Sonoma County is considered one of the world’s premier winegrowing regions, producing an unparalleled range of varietals and wine styles. SCV has promoted this diversity and quality since 1944, and currently represents more than 165 member wineries and 25 Affiliate Members. For more information on the wines and wineries of Sonoma County, visit www.sonomawine.com.

About Sonoma County Winegrape Commission
The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission was established in 2006 as a non-profit marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions. SCWC’s goal is to increase awareness and recognition of the quality and diversity of Sonoma County’s grapes and wines through dynamic marketing and educational programs targeted to wine consumers around the world. For more information about SCWC and its programs, visit www.sonomawinegrape.org

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