Winemaker's Update

– Matt Brady, SAMsARA Winemaker

Winemaker’s Update – August 31, 2018


As close to perfect as we can ask for 

“The past two weeks, the weather’s been close to optimal. It’s just been really cool and moderate and following the four weeks of heat that we had prior to that, the cool weather’s about as close to perfect as we can ask for. Everything’s slowly ripening, with the important thing being hang time (time on the vine) and not sugar sweetnesss. The cool weather right now, as we approach the final push before harvest, is the best possible weather we could ask for. It’s just a real kind of slow ripening way to get a little extra hang time here at the end of the season.

We had a cooler, early part of the year and then we had some heat in the summer, and now we’re getting this little break in the heat right before harvest. If the weather stays like this for another week or two, 2018 has the makings to be an all-time vintage.” 

Bottled the Chardonnay last Wednesday

“We bottled the Chardonnay last Wednesday, we had emptied the barrels to tank (racking) about a month ago and had the wine in stainless steel tanks for the last four or five weeks leading up to bottling. And that’s a pretty typical approach for chardonnay. You see it a lot in burgundy, moving the wine into tanks for a little while prior to bottling just seems to tighten the wine up, makes it a little more focused, and gives the wines a bit more “energy”. We also did some cellar work in preparation for bottling the 2016 Larner vineyard Grenache the same day as the chardonnay, so we did a little bit of cellar work in advance of that. And that was bottled unfined, unfiltered. We emptied the barrels about one hour before we bottled the wine. So it went from barrel to tank to the bottle pretty quick. But that wine had been in barrel for 22 months, since September of 2016, and it tastes really good. I’m really pleased with it.” 

An exciting time in the vineyard

“Other than the bottling prep, we went through all of the 2017 wines and did some sensory analysis and saw where everything is qualitatively and we’re really pleased with how the 2017s are tasting. And that’s an important part of the process, tasting last year’s wine just in advance of this year’s harvest. It’s great to have last year’s vintage fresh in my mind as we approach the new vintage just in case there’s anything that I like especially or something that I would do differently based on how the wines are tasting now. So I have a better sense of what vineyards we need to really focus on bringing in early and what vineyards are maybe a little bit better if they hang out there a little longer, and get a little riper.

Right now the total focus is getting ready for 2018 harvest and making sure we’re ready at our new winery! We’re moving barrels and all our equipment over tomorrow and our press arrives on Wednesday. It’s an exciting time in the vineyard as well. We’re about to go out and see how things are progressing. I don’t expect to pick any fruit this week, but I’d be surprised if we don’t pick fruit next week. A week from tomorrow would be my guess for our first pick, but we’ll see. It all depends on what goes on with this cool weather, if it continues or if we get a little bit of heat here in the coming days.”

A more normal timing of harvest

“The chardonnay crop is a little bit light this year, but the flipside of that is it should be really high quality stuff. It’s going be a relatively long season with pinot noir and chardonnay harvest starting a little bit later than the last few years but pretty close to a normal start time. And then some of the Rhone varietal vineyards (Syrah, Grenache) being considerably behind that. I was out in the field yesterday and Larner Vineyard only at about 20% veraison so we might not pick that for like six weeks.

It’s definitely nice to see the more normal timing of harvest which we really haven’t seen in the last four or five vintages. We really haven’t had a normal timing harvest since 2012 and that’s kind of what this vintage is shaping up to be. It’s on account of the really cool early part of the year and the current cool weather is helping maintain that. But we’ll see what happens in the next couple weeks. I can almost guarantee it’s going to get really hot again like it always does, but it would be nice to get all the Pinot Noir and the Chardonnay picked and then let it get hot again. That would be the perfect scenario. And the weather forecast right now is ideal for the next week so there’s a chance it could happen like that, which would be great!”

– Matt Brady, SAMsARA Winemaker (August 31, 2018)