pinot noir


How many girls does it take to stomp 4+ tons grapes?  Watch us as we stomp away at our handcrafted and foot stomped Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir!

We had our first harvest this week for 2009–our Beresini Vineyard Pinot Noir.  The fruit, beautiful, tasty and at perfect Brix (sugar) and pH levels, was telling us it was time to pick.  Those of you in the Bay Area know that Mother Nature was not in agreement, however.  She handed us some rare and unexpected thunder showers just before our planned harvest date. Luckily Beresini is in the Carneros appellation just north of most of the weekend showers that hit our area and with a minor date adjustment, we were able to pick, sort and de-stem the fruit without a problem and under sunny skies.  Uzi was in the vineyard to help harvest and take the video and then met us at the winery with the grapes.

sortingBeresini

Sorting Beresini Pinot Noir

our fig tree

our fig tree

Sausages.  Figs.  Grill.  Pinot Noir.  Need I say  more?

Now that figs are in season, both in our backyard and at our neighborhood market, I’ve had a steady supply in my kitchen.  So I also picked up a package of Niman Ranch (Andouille, I believe) sausages and thought that with a few additional ingredients I’d come up with an impressive dinner.  Dinner time rolled around and I found myself out of time.  So I just threw the sausages on the grill, whole.  When they were almost done, I put on the figs, halved, cut side down.  I sliced a baguette and opened a bottle of Pinot Noir and we found ourselves enjoying a very tasty and easy summer treats.  And it was that simple.  By the way, if you want to serve this as an appetizer that doesn’t require a knife and fork, do this:  slice the grilled sausages crosswise, top each slice with a halved or quartered fig and stick a toothpick in.  And don’t forget the Pinot. 🙂

For my previous Pinot Noir-friendly food post, click here.  Now, I have to get back to harvest.

Our maiden commercial vintage has been bottled.  I know the age of some our laborers looks a little young but I seriously could not pull them away.  I barely had a chance to get my own hands in there!  Look for this wine to be released in early November!

Uzi taking Brix measurements in the vineyard     

Uzi taking Brix measurements in the vineyard

The vineyards in the Russian River, Sonoma Coast and Carneros from which we source fruit look beautiful and the weather has been perfect these last weeks with cool nights and warm days.  Earlier this week we visited each vineyard and brought along our handheld refractometer to measure the Brix levels of the grapes.  The refractometer looks similar to a small telescope.  There is a small glass plate that flips out onto which you place a sample of juice by squishing above it a grape freshly plucked from the vine.  Then you hold it to the sun and the light traveling through the sample in the refractometer is reflected (refracted?) in such a way that a line shadow is formed separating a dark area from a light area.  It is here at the shadow line that the reading is taken.

Our measurements at Lauterbach Vineyard in the Russian River Valley were about 20.5 Brix.  Beresini Vineyard Brix level, in Carneros, is slightly behind at 20.2 Brix.  Corona Creek Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, is farther behind,  as expected, at around 17 Brix.  We shoot to harvest at 24.5 Brix and Lauterbach Vineyard in the RRV will probably be our first grapes to be harvested and brought into the winery in approxiately 2-3 weeks.

RRV grapes at end of August

RRV grapes at end of August

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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