Acid Reflux

Without fail, every vintage brings forth an unforeseen challenge.  This year that head-scratcher is the acid levels in our grapes.  Sugar levels in vineyards across the peninsula are sky high, usually the indication that grapes are ready to harvest.  However, upon a quick taste and further  laboratory analysis, most growers and vineyard managers are finding that their fruit remains quite tart and not quite balanced as of yet.  It seems as if the warmer daytime weather has spiked the sugar content, but the cooler nights have stalled the acid conversion.

Those who choose to harvest their fruit primarily on high sugar levels will surely pay for it in unbalanced resultant wines.  One major problem within our industry is that grape growers are paid mainly on tonnage with a bonus structure for sugar levels (degrees brix).  Clearly, this does not tell the whole story when it comes to the quality of fruit that it takes to craft premium wines.  Titratable acidity, flavour production, seed and tannin ripeness, colour, berry size, nutrient levels and cleanliness are all key components that a winemaker must take into consideration when evaluating incoming fruit.

Consider the plight of a grower who thins his vineyard to lower tonnage, but their fruit is above average in all the other ripening components at the base sugar level.  They get paid the same per tonne as a grower who overcrops underripe fruit at the base sugar level, which is fairly easy to do.  I’m of the opinion that we need to better reward the grower in the first scenario.  If we could come up with some kind of “ripening coefficient” that takes all the important parameters into consideration, perhaps more growers would be inclined to crop at the lower levels needed to ensure premium wine quality.

Thankfully, while we wait for the acid levels to drop, the grapes keep accumulating sugar and flavours.  If we can keep them clean (and that is one nervously typed “If”) the fruit should round out nicely, giving us the ability to craft great wine in 2009.

Better Late than Never

Just when you thought mother nature had rendered 2009 a complete write-off…she goes and TOTALLY redeems herself!  The last couple of weeks could not have been more ideal for ripening grapes.  We are by no means out of the woods yet in our task of ripening later varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, but things are definitely looking up.

Sugar samples that I conducted today confirmed what I’ve been tasting for the last few days, the early varieties are sweet and ripening in a hurry!  Pinot Gris leads the way at 20.1 degrees Brix, while the Pinot Noir are sitting at 18.7 and the Sauvignon Blanc at 18.0.  That puts us roughly two to three weeks away from the commencement of harvest, should the weather hold.

I want to take an opportunity to thank both Glen Hunt and Randy Hemphill of Hunter Bottling and the good folks at Creekside for helping us bottle our 2008 whites this past Saturday.  Glenn and Randy provided the mobile line while Creekside lent us their facility and some elbow grease.  Our wines went into bottle without a hitch and should be ready for release in a couple of weeks.  Thanks to all for a job well done!

We’re Still Open!

I treasure the many great acquaintances we’ve made over our inaugural summer.  So why stop the fun?  We’ve decided to extend our weekend retail hours until the New Year.   I do caution that now more than ever, you may need to venture out to the vineyard to find us.  We may leave a large bell for you to ring outside the barn, or failing that a car honk should alert us to your presence.  If  your search leads you down a row of Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, please make sure to knock off any green bunches you encounter!

In other news, if you find yourself within earshot of a radio this weekend, please tune in to 610 CKTB on Saturday at 3pm or Sunday at 1pm for the wine show “Uncorked” with Stephanie Sabourin.  Excitingly, Five Rows will be featured in an interview segment off the top of the show.