Uzi and I were in the Russian River Valley this weekend trying to finalize a third Pinot Noir vineyard for 2009.  The weather was a cool 75 degrees when we arrived at the first vineyard just off River Road at 10:30. The owner walked us through his vines of Pommard, 115 and 777 clones.  These are the Pinot clones we prefer, the clones that will hopefully give us the well-balanced, yet complex Pinot Noir we prefer.  At just under 8 acres, the Pinot vineyard is nicely farmed by a very well-known farmer/viticulturist who keeps the yield to about 2 tons/acre–this is the type of low-yield vineyard we are looking for.  The grapes here have just barely begun to change color.  This process during which the grapes turn from green to purple is called verasion.  The owner speculated harvest will occur mid-September.

verasion begins

verasion begins

We tasted several samples of the 2008 vintage as well as a 2006 and 2004.  All were very impressive, in particular the 2004.  We enjoyed sharing winemaking stories with the owner and then went on our way to mull the opportunity to buy grapes from this vineyard.  This year we have been lucky to have unprecedented opportunities to some excellent Pinot fruit.  We stopped just down the hill to taste at Martinelli Winery and have a working picnic under their beautiful arbor with the single biggest cluster of grapes I have ever seen.  Get a load of this cluster:

grapecluster

working lunch

working lunch

The temperature quickly rose as we reached our second stop.  It made for an uncomfortable walk in the 92 degree heat.  Here in these vineyards, just to the northeast where it is warmer, verasion had reached almost 30%, according to the helpful viticulturist who took us through the vineyards.  She mentioned that harvest may very well come by the end of August.  In the picture below you can see how much farther verasion has progressed at this vineyard than in the preceeding one.

verasion progressing

verasion progressing

Here they have several blocks of Pinot Noir containing an array of clones–114, 115, 459, 667, 777, 828…So many, that I am not kidding when I say I had these numbers dancing in my head that night as I slept.  A very well-maintained vineyard with an incredible range to choose from. During this trip it was easy to see how the microclimates within the Russian River Valley make a big difference.  In just a 2-mile radius there can be more than a month difference in harvest date for the same varietal.  In fact, records we compared for these two vineyards show about 1 month difference in harvest dates.

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