I write this awaiting arrival of 5 tons of Pinot Noir from Beresini Vineyard in Carneros.  Uzi woke at 3:50 this morning to oversee the pick while I slept to a more normal hour and drove to meet him and the fruit at the winery.  I beat them both here so am taking advantage of the moment to write this in our traveling office/dining room/sometimes bedroom (aka my car.)

Beresini Pinot 09/08/12The reason he and the fruit are a bit late, and why growers and winemakers across Sonoma and Napa are celebrating, is that the perfect fruit set we had this spring and a steady stream of pleasant weather has led to an incredibly bountiful harvest.  The vineyard produced more fruit than it has in years and they needed more time and more bins to pick it.  The yield (tons/acre) is still low compared to most vinearyds, but for Beresini Vineyard this year is a jack pot!  I think we’ll finally get as much as we asked for.  And best of all, this year’s decisions on when to pick are being decided on ripeness not impending rain storms or heat spikes that played a role in the last 2 vintages.

We are so happy to bring in Pinot Noir from Beresini and Lauterbach Vineyards for the 4th year in a row and Chardonnay from Hyde Vineyard for the 2nd.   We just bottled our 2011s from each of these 3 vineyards and consider ourselves very lucky to have ongoing relationships with these dedicated growers.

And now it’s time for us to roll up our sleeves, get sticky and dirty, keep our traveling office stocked and go make some wine.  Hope your fall is just as happy and exciting!

Vines growing in carneros

Shoot reaching out to the sun

I always say that spring is the second best time of the year (the first is harvest in the fall.)

Watching the new shoots reach for the sun, performing their annual miracle painting the vineyard green, sprouting from the brown, dead looking trunks, never ceases to amaze me.

Tiny baby clusters appear and the leaves open up, spread and gorge on the sun.

This is also the time of the year when planting replacement vines happen.  Some of the old vines are too tired and can barley produce a cluster or two each year. We plant new, young vines in the field, right next to the old ones.  It will be three years before the new vines will produce any meaningful fruit, under the watchful eyes of their elders.

new vine in milk carton

New vines receive protection from frost and bunnies with an old milk carton and sawdust.

It’s been a long, cool growing season and harvest is still maybe 2 weeks 1 week ?? away.  Yields look small but with the long hang time, complex flavors are developing in there.  And it’s always a pleasure to walk Steve’s vineyard with him.

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Beresini Pinot Aug 28

As harvest approaches, we are taking twice weekly Brix measurements of Bersini vineyard in Carneros–typically, our first vineyard picked.  On August 28, it was at 20.2 Brix.  On September 5, 21.4.  We picked on September 14 last year but due to the general coolness of this summer, the vineyard is about 1 degree and 1 week behind where it was last year at this time.   While the warm weather we’ve had these last two weeks might speed things up a bit, it is still hard to tell.

Last year, Beresini had a smaller than expected yield from our rows and it looks like we may find ourselves in the same situation again this year.  Smaller yields typically mean better, more intensely flavored wines…but it also means less of it.

We popped in on Beresini Vineyard and Corona Creek Vineyard in late June to check on the fruit.  Here they are:

Beresini vineyard (first photo) is in Carneros.  The berries are a little farther developed than those in Corona Creek (2nd photo) located in Sonoma Coast.  In 2009, we harvested Beresini over 2 weeks before Corona Creek.

We also stopped at the Fremont Diner in Carneros, just down the road from Beresini, for some down home cooking.  The big yellow square in the photo is butter, right behind it is a pig’s leg. Definitely not the place to go if you’re on a diet.

BarrelsWith pleasure, Uzi and I tasted barrel samples of our 2009 Pinot Noir last weekend.  Uzi was down at the winery topping the barrels so he pulled several samples and thoughtfully called me over to taste with him.

Each time we sample, a different wine seems to be the favorite.  The first time around it was our Corona Creek (Sonoma Coast) samples. Next time we preferred the Beresini (Carneros.)  The third time, we tasted with Steve Beresini (he grows what else?  our Beresini.)  Steve liked them all but in the end he “admitted” that at that moment in time, he preferred the Corona Creek.  This last time that Uzi and I tasted, our Lauterbach (Russian River) seemed to be the winner.  This, I think, reflects three things:  1) the different vineyards expressing unique characteristics; 2) the nature of Pinot Noir and how it changes and evolves in the barrel, in the bottle and in the glass; and 3) that we will end up with three distinct Pinots and definitely something for everyone.

Over the long weekend we met with Chris, our Sonoma Coast grower of Corona Creek Vineyards.  We compared barrel samples of 2009 Stomping Girl Pinot Noir Corona Creek Vineyard with barrel samples of Chris’ Corona Creek Vineyard.  They’re both still very young but coming along nicely.  We agreed our Corona Creek has great color, some black cherry notes along with a nice earthiness–like freshly turned up soil in the vineyards.  We then compared the ’09s to Chris’ bottled 2008 Corona Creek Pinot which had nice dark fruit flavors and aromas that continued to develop as we enjoyed the rest of the bottle with dinner that night.

We also visited Beresini vineyard in Carneros, anohter source of our 2009 Pinot, to check out the vines and discuss a new pruning technique with Steve, the owner.  We are extremely happy with our ’09 Beresini Vineyard Pinot Noir that’s in barrels right now and are keeping a close eye on our rows in his vineyard for the ’10 harvest.  His two dogs and our son romped while we talked in the vineyards.  Steve sent us home with a bottle of his own wine–aptly named “Black Dog.”

Beresini Vineyard

Beresini's black dog

Beresini vineyard

Uzi and Steve B.

Uzi had been been talking about this diner near Steve’s vineyard that has great biscuits–the Fremont Diner.  We were too late for breakfast but we stopped there for lunch.  It looks a little divey from the outside.  But the charm completely takes over as you notice the vineyards in the background, the lone chicken hanging with 2 friendly dogs outside  and the decor inside.  And the food is out of this world.  The food is down home cooking, all from scratch, fresh ingredients and definitely not for those on a diet.  I had the Whole Hog, a pulled pork sandwich with bbq sauce, coleslaw and these incredible beans.  I am already contemplating my next menu selection…

Whole Hog Sandwich

the Whole Hog

Fremont Diner

Fremont Diner

fremont diner chicken

Fremont Diner chicken